Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump’s failed airstrike against a single airbase in Syria was motivated by his compassion for the innocents who died from the deadly nerve gas Sarin. Let us also assume (and yes, I know what they say about the word “assume”) that it was not an opportunistic move to divert public attention away from Trump’s political crisis regarding his administration’s involvement with the Russian government.
If we accept both assumptions as true, then we must ask ourselves “How did he manage to screw it up so completely?”
The following are offered as possible explanations:
First, Trump never was and is not now a supporter of the America First movement.
After years of railing on Twitter to President Obama that he (Obama) should, under no circumstances, become militarily involved in any way, shape, or form in Syria, it took Trump fewer than three months to do exactly the opposite.
His attack was not leveled against ISIS forces, as Obama had attempted, but against the government forces of Bashar Assad. While many countries around the world applaud his action, it will be extremely difficult for him to continue to maintain that this missile strike was a “one off” military exercise. Nikki Halley, our Ambassador to the United Nations, made it clear that the United States was ready to do more, if circumstances warranted it.
Don’t forget that Trump had already committed U.S. military personnel, including contingents of the U.S. Marine Corps, early on in his administration as ground forces in Syria.
For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, Trump has now committed the United States to playing a military role in Syria. This is not a business deal that he can walk away from if he decides he doesn’t like the terms.
Second, Trump has no clearly defined foreign policy other than the America First concept. See first explanation.
The fact that the United States was under no immediate danger itself from the Syrian government makes a mockery of his claims that he would be President of the United States, not President of the World.
Recent statements that the American government had no desire to replace Assad as the head of Syria no doubt emboldened him to use chemical weapons against his own people. Now our policy has undergone a 180 degree turn within a few days. What does this mean for our stances on other countries such as North Korea?
Third, Trump clearly prefers staying in the good graces of Vladimir Putin over those of his devoted fan base, the Deplorable Pepes.
This, more than any other factor, explains why Trump’s first foray into military action ended in disaster. Before the missiles were launched, Trump did not warn Congress of his intentions. He did not warn the America people of his intentions. Instead, he picked up the phone and told Putin exactly what he planned to do, where and when it would happen. There can be little doubt that Putin immediately passed this intel directly on to President Assad.
So when the Tomahawk missiles struck the airfield, there were no Syrian planes on the ground. They and their crews had all been diverted to other airfields. The White House claims that 59 missiles successfully reached their targets. Yet the very next day, Syria was launching planes from that very airfield. Now people on Twitter are derisively calling Trump’s attack “Operation Pothole.”
How could this happen, you might well ask? According to statements attributed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the runways were not targeted. You intend to completely dismantle the ability of an airfield to function, and YOU DON’T TAKE OUT THE RUNWAYS? Seriously? That would rank right up there with the Japanese failing to take out the fuel depots when they attacked Pearl Harbor as one of the worst military oversights of all time.
Donald Trump is Commander-in-Chief of the best trained, best equipped, and most highly sophisticated armed forces in the world. If allowed to use the right weapons with the right orders, there is no doubt that airfield would never send out another plane again, much less the very next day.
Within 48 hours of the attack, it is becoming clear that Trump and his administration had no intention of seriously harming Syria or challenging their allies in what can only be described in Trumpian terminology as a FAKE WAR. As Trump himself has said on numerous occasions, you don’t give the enemy ample warning before you attack.
The Republican hawks in the Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are delighted by Trump’s move. Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer completely support him. Even former Secretary of State John Kerry has applauded his attack. Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz are reportedly not too thrilled and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is reported to be apoplectic.
- Operation Pothole caused a deep rift within the Trump camp and among his supporters.
- It achieved no sustainable military benefit to the United States.
- Trump inserted the United States militarily into the quicksand of Middle Eastern politics.
All of which begs the question, what the hell was he thinking, or did he even think at all?