Late last night it was announced that Donald Trump ordered our military to launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each with 1,000 of explosives, at the military base from which Syrian fighter bombers were launched to drop nerve gas on innocent civilians. This was the same Donald Trump whose administration that only three days before signaled through its Secretary of State that the future of Syria will be left up to the Syrian people, effectively saying that the US was adopting a hands-off approach towards the Bashar al-Assad regime. In fact it may have been that very announcement which emboldened the Syrian President to use chemical agents on his own people.
Let’s also recall that it was Donald Trump who provided unsolicited advice to President Obama not to retaliate the last time al-Assad the used chemical weapons on his people. Throughout the campaign Donald Trump again and again stated that the US should no longer assume the duties of “the world’s policeman” and we should stay out of external conflicts. During the latter days of the campaign it was Trump who criticized Hillary Clinton for her hawkish stances on Syria while she served as Secretary of State.
This was also the same Donald Trump who, up to now, has been willing to have the United States do nothing throughout the 6 years of the Syrian Civil war while Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the Russian military killed over 195,000 of the country’s civilians including over 22,000 children. (Syrian Network for Human Rights statistics) Apparently the 69 people, including children, killed in that nerve gas attack affected Trump more than the thousands and thousands of Syrian men, women, and children killed by Syrian and Russian forces that have intentional targeted hospitals and civilian populations. International law aside, are Syrian children any less dead, are the bodies of the survivors any less mangled, when Assad’s forces drop barrel bombs on them from helicopters?
And where was Donald Trump’s compassion for the Syrian people when he tried to specifically forbid Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country from seeking refuge in the United State? Is the fulfillment of a campaign promise more important than giving refuge to civilians and their children who are indistinguishable from those killed in the chemical attack?
Then there is the question of the constitutional legality of the missile attack. Many in the House and Senate have in the past expressed the opinion that the President must seek the approval of Congress before initiating military action such as the attack in Syria. As you will recall the Republican controlled Congress refused to vote on President Obama’s request for authority to retaliate against Assad the last time he used chemical weapons on his civilian population. Trump did not give Congress that option this time around.
Look, I am not saying that it was a bad decision to retaliate for the al-Assad’s nerve gas attack on his own people. I simply don’t have intelligence data and inside knowledge which should be available to the US President which would be necessary for me to properly evaluate the available options. I’m am simply questioning whether Donald Trump has patience to properly evaluate all of the many factors involved and the mental stability to determine the proper course of action.
For instance, reports indicate that Trump asked his military leaders to provide him with options for attacking Syria immediately after he learned of the chemical attacks. This constituted an immediate and complete 180° turnaround from the stance he and his administration have advertised throughout the campaign and previously during his Presidency. He says he was moved by the bodies of children he saw on TV after the chemical attack. Didn’t he previously see the battered bodies of so many more Syrian children killed by Assad and the Russians with conventional weapons? Didn’t he realize that it was the statements of his own administration that probably emboldened Assad?
This is the decision making process of an emotional person and is not indicative of the cool and rational thought process required of a person who has the power to direct of the most powerful military on the face of the earth to attack another country. In addition, in his rush to take decisive action did Donald Trump take the time to fully analyze and take into consideration all factors involved along with many possible outcomes of his decision.
You and I are not privy to all of the information at the President’s disposal, but some things are obvious. For instance, did Trump take into consideration that by degrading Syria’s air power he was in effect assisting ISIS? Did Trump consider the possibility that Assad might react to the missile bombardment by directing his air force to attack the ships which launched the missiles or worse to bomb the rebel units in Syria in which our Special Forces units are embedded? If that happened, the US could have been dragged into the never ending Syrian civil war which could bring our people into direct confrontation with Russian troops. Even we if were able to ultimately displace Assad, remember what Colin Powel said, “When you break it, you own it.”
It’s possible that Trump instead ultimately decided to take aggressive action because he believed that it would be popular with the American people despite the risks? This is a President with record low job approval numbers much in need of public relations boost. Remember also this was the first President to put a political operative (Bannon) on the National Security staff. Previous Presidents never did that because they believed national security decisions shouldn’t be politicized. Trump obviously has never been concerned about that, so I’m suspicious.
Or perhaps, after all of the concern which has been raised about his people’s Russian connections and his public bromance with Putin, he saw this as an opportunity to deflect suspicion on the issue by directing a one off attack against Russia’s friend, Assad. Remember, that our military gave Russians plenty of warning of the so that they had plenty of time to evacuate before the strike. You an bet that they also passed the warning on to the Syrians who had plenty of time to get their aircraft out of harms way before the attack. And heaven only knows what kind of chatter went back and forth with the Russians over the “back channels” which the administration is know to have attempted to establish with the Kremlin.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t trust Donald Trump to be making these kinds of important decisions which could have long lasting consequences, but of course there is not a damn thing we can do about it. Of even greater concern are the decisions yet to be made about how to deal with North Korea’s goal of developing nuclear tipped ICBM’s capable of striking the United States.
If China refuses to really apply the screws to Kim Jong-un, (and it has not been in their best interest to do so in the past), the Trump administration has announced that the US will deal with the situation alone. On that front, the US has no diplomatic or economic leverage over North Korea. That leaves only military action, and that is a poor option indeed. Any strike against the country to degrade its nuclear capabilities is sure to be answered by attacks on South Korea. Seoul, one of the world’s most densely-populated cities with a population of over 10 Million people, is only 35 miles from the border with North Korea. It is easily within range of the North Korean artillery and rockets. We currently have 28K+ American solders, airmen, sailors and marines stationed in South Korea, many of them near the neutral zone. A retaliatory strike from the North which kills a number of American military personally could easily pull us into an all out war. And how would China respond to such a situation?
Short of dropping nuclear weapons on the entire North Korean leadership and key military targets, there is no solution which doesn’t involve massive casualties to friendly forces and civilians. But how will Trump’s ego handle the humiliation if Kim Jon-un continues to thumb his nose at us in the face of continual escalation. What if the North Korean leader achieves his goal of mating nuclear weapons to long range missiles which can reach the West Coast? I certainly don’t want Donald Trump making the decisions in such circumstances.