Friday, April 7, 2017 at 8:12 AM

Trump Launches “Wag-the-Dog” Strikes against Syria

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The US military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.

The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition.

Syria and Russia swiftly denounced the attack.

(Washington Post, April 7, 2017)

I telegraphed these strikes and their deflective intent in “Putin Ordered Puppet Assad to Gas Innocent Syrians…?” April 4, 2017. I urge you to read it.

With respect to this development, the following points are worth noting:

  • Trump gave Putin (and thereby Assad) a heads-up (about timing and targets) before launching these strikes. This proves they were only for show; it also makes a mockery of Trump’s own claim that he would never give the enemy notice of his military intent.

  • This heads-up gave Assad time to move his arsenal (notably the chemical weapons at issue and the aircrafts he used to deliver them) out of harm’s way. This validates my claim that military strikes in this context would amount to little more than “masturbatory explosions.” Incidentally, if my dismissing these strikes by alluding to the Mametian “Wag the Dog” is too hip for you, perhaps alluding to the Shakespearean “Much Ado About Nothing” will do.
  • Trump could have taken out all six of Assad’s known military bases. He targeted only one, which is rather like a mosquito stinging the butt of a rampaging elephant to get it to change course.
  • If you believe Trump’s spin about mission accomplished in Syria, you probably still believe Bush’s spin about mission accomplished in Iraq.

  • Western politicians and pundit alike are hailing Trump as if he’d just won the Huntingtonian Clash of Civilizations. And they are wasting no subtlety in asserting that Trump demonstrated the strength and decisiveness Obama failed to. But the fact that Assad can launch another chemical attack today if he wanted to belies their praises.
  • Assad retains the arsenal to continue terrorizing innocent Syrians. This includes the capacity to kill many more “beautiful little babies” with barrel bombs, which Trump evidently thinks he should be able to do with impunity. This, despite Trump claiming that he launched these strikes because he feels it’s “my responsibility” to save them. Not to mention that this is the same Trump who is still trying to implement a Muslim ban. After all, this ban would slam America’s door in the face of Syrian mothers fleeing – with these beautiful little babies in their arms – from Assad’s chemical weapons and barrel bombs.
  • The only strategic goal these strikes accomplished was to (momentarily) deflect media attention from investigations into Putin’s meddling in the US presidential election, and from Trump’s allegation that Obama wiretapped his phone. Oh, this wag-the-dog stunt will probably give his historically low poll numbers a momentary bounce too.
  • Trump gets to play military hero … for a day or two; and Putin gets to launch crocodile protests to give the impression that Trump is a traditional enemy, not his Manchurian puppet.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping probably resents Trump playing tough-guy military commander in the midst of their two-day Mar-a-Lago summit. But he undoubtedly appreciates the United States and Russia getting entangled in military misadventures in the Middle East. For this leaves China free to expand its sphere of influence elsewhere throughout the developing world … without firing a single shot, let alone launching a barrage of missiles. But if Trump thinks either Xi or his problem child Kim Jong-un will be impressed or intimidated by his pinprick strikes against Syria, well, he’s every bit as delusional as we all know he is.

That said, in “The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected the Outcome of US Election,” December 12, 2016, I posited scenarios that will trigger the inevitable day of reckoning for the bromance between Putin and Trump. This was not one of those scenarios. That day is not today.

Related commentaries:
Putin Ordered
Syria ceasefire
Syrian migration
China buying influence
Russia US election

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