What a week to take a vacation!
I'm tempted to cover all the ground I've missed in one long, rambling post, but there's just too much going on for that to be feasible (let along readable).
Regarding Syria, it is important to keep in mind that 95 percent of the commentary on Trump's actions is disingenuous, ignorant or both.
As always with Donald Trump's actions, there is more going on here than meets the eye. The twin narratives spun by the media and their Conservatism, Inc. allies (that Trump is either utterly lost and erratic or a Russian puppet) simply don't hold up.
The most important thing to remember is this: We are already involved in Syria. The notion that we've somehow stayed out of the situation there is a lie. We've been involved since the start because we are the world's superpower.
There is a notion shared on the libertarian right and the idiotarian left that the US can simply walk away from the world's problems. At its core, this policy is based on the cult-like belief that the US is somehow responsible for everything that happens in the world.
The left really likes this concept because it absolves non-white people of agency. Head-hacking, mass rape, using poison gas - all of these barbarous acts are really our fault, so who are we to judge? It's entirely consistent with their effort to frame gangland crime and urban decay not on the culture the effects of their destructive social policies, but "society" in general.
Simply pulling all US troops out of our overseas bases will not eliminate our strategic threats, nor will is cause ISIS and Al Qaeda to go dormant - it will in fact embolden them and our strategic rivals.
The cost of American disengagement would be more insecurity in the world, not less.
At the same time, "engagement" is not to be confused with the neo-con desire to invade the world and try to remake it in our image.
When Assad's government used Sarin gas against its own people, the US had only limited choices:
- We could do nothing but talk a lot. This is what Obama did, and it never worked.
- We could go in with a massive invasion and court not only World War III but also set the rest of the Middle East ablaze, or
- We could follow the time-honored precedent of "firing a shot across the bow" of the guilty party and threaten more to come unless they change their behavior.
Clearly Trump chose option three. It was a bold move, and could backfire, but it also has considerable potential for payoff.
He gave the order just before sitting down to dinner with China's leader. That sent an unmistakable global signal about Trump's willingness to use military force to solve a problem.
Moreover, Trump couched the strike in terms of a broken agreement - namely Obama's figleaf agreement to avoid dealing with the crossed "red line." Trump has signaled that breaking deals on his watch has consequences.
Trump's target choice also was chosen with considerable care, showing that he's once again allowing his generals to do his job, rather than basing strategic decisions on the whims of failed novelists and unemployed academics.
Contra commentator Nurglitch, cratering a runway is not a permanent feature. Unless the base is under constant attack, it is possible to repair craters in a few hours.
The real damage was to the aircraft, which are far harder to replace. Syria's aircraft inventory is dwindling and Russia doesn't have the resources to re-equip it free of charge. That was a body blow to Assad's military might.
Moreover, it demonstrated to the world that the United States could and would attack a close Russian ally, completely altering the perception of both American resolve and Russian strength.
This is especially important for Iran to understand. They've been getting rather full of themselves since the Obama administration started kissing their ass, and Trump's strike on Assad was a clear warning to them as well. Defense Secretary Mattis has long argued Iran is the major threat to American interests in the Middle East and his fingerprints are all over this.
Syria is Iran's proxy, and this strike was sent as a signal to the mullahs as well as Moscow.
I notice that Trump is now demanding that Syria honor in full its agreement regarding chemical weapons and is calling on Russia to help enforce its terms. This is brilliant. It provides Russia with a way to climb down without backing down - something Obama's morons in the State Dept. never managed to do.
Every single time a challenge emerged, the Obama (and Clinton) response was to verbally demand that it stop on pain of making the Presidential Frowny Face and unleashing a mean tweet. No one cared. When that didn't work, there were sometimes sanctions that were just enough to piss off the opponent without actually crippling them.
These people were brilliantly stupid.
Trump's policy may backfire, in large part because Obama's terrible leadership has left the US with no good options. Still, it's a bold play and a good one.
The fact that the usual suspects hate it is to me the best recommendation one could want.