Since it’s easier to imagine Trump spending a weekend in a Bohemian hostel with bearded backpackers than ever admitting to failure, his display of militaristic machismo on the eve of his 100-day milestone may have been a face-saving PR stunt. Or not.
For a compulsively competitive Wall Street carnivore like The Donald – who spent the first hours of his presidency fending off media reports that dared to mock the crowd size at his inaugural ceremony, as compared to Obama’s – the 100-day marker must weigh heavily on his easily bruised ego.
So heavily, in fact, it appears that the recent fireworks display put on in Syria, Afghanistan, and off the coast of California was symptomatic of this media-hyped 100-day beauty pageant. In other words, Trump needed some diversionary shock and awe to induce a general wave of amnesia regarding all those campaign promises going unfulfilled.
Obamacare, for example, which Trump pledged to euthanize once in the White House, is still wheezing along on life support, while the promised wall on the leaky US-Mexican border – the very hot-button issue that first got him noticed as a political tour de force – has yet to see its first brick. NAFTA, which he slammed relentlessly on the campaign trail, suddenly looks like something Americans can live with. In fact, Trump’s biggest victory to date has been his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, although even this achievement required the Republicans to roll out the so-called “nuclear option” to break a Democratic filibuster.
Mother of All Mistakes
Yes, it has been a trying 100 first days for the maverick of Manhattan. But does that excuse him for playing judge, jury, and executioner on April 6, when he unloaded 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian airbase? Probably not. The attack followed dubious claims that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons two days earlier. In other words, we the citizens of the Armchair Republic are expected to believe that Assad had basically decided to commit suicide when everything was going his way. All things considered, highly unlikely. After all, just one week before the assault, the US said it would work with Assad – an announcement that drew howls of pain from the Neocons.
More importantly, the attack sent shock waves through Trump’s electoral base who had largely supported the ‘populist’ on the basis of his anti-war platform.
By attacking Syrian forces, Trump risked exposing himself as yet another opportunistic US warmonger willing to willfully deceive his electorate in order to carry out the Neocon agenda of regime change.
These plans, which were candidly exposed by General Wesley Clark shortly after the 9/11 attacks, call for pulverizing seven countries in short order: Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and, finally, the Holy Grail – as far as the Neocons are concerned – known as Iran.
Trump had promised to put an end to such overseas misadventures, yet at the very first opportunity he squeezed the trigger quicker than the Nobel Peace Prize winner who preceded him. Briefly, here are some of the more disturbing things about the US strike on Syria:
1. It was conducted just two days after a suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, and before any formal investigation – and therefore the establishment of guilt – had begun.
2. It targeted the one group, the Syrian Army, that had been waging an effective campaign – with Russian assistance – in routing Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Incredibly, the US strike lent support to the terrorists’ cause.
3. The Trump administration relied upon an emotionally charged performance by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who in the General Assembly held up photographs of dead Syrian children reportedly killed in the chemical attack. Given Islamic State’s notorious reputation for stomach-churning savagery, however, why was the Trump administration so willing to blame the government of President Bashar Assad for crossing the “red line,” while giving the bloodthirsty terrorists a free pass?
4. The Trump administration never paused to consider that the “chemical weapons attack” was possibly triggered by either the rebels or by the Syria Army accidentally hitting an industrial chemical plant, thus spreading noxious fumes into the air, as suggested by Dr. Karasik, a former senior political scientist in the International Policy and Security Group at RAND Corporation.
Meanwhile, MIT Professor Theodore Postol, who has examined photographs of the attack site, concluded that the report endorsed by the White House “could not be true.”
So now the entire world is left wondering: Was the Syrian strike merely a one-off display of Trump’s muscle-flexing before the release of the 100-day report card, or was this Act 1 of yet another tragedy of Shakespearean proportions?
If that was Trump’s short-term strategy, it worked because in the aftermath of the Syrian missile strike – which included an encore performance starring the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ dropped on suspected terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan on April 13 and the test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM on April 26 – the media suddenly and quite tellingly treated him with the utmost respect for the first time since his Inauguration, while the Neocons stood up and applauded for more.
There is another possibility that says Trump was politically shrewd enough to initiate the attack on Syria with the foreknowledge that it would bring the hostile Liberal media to heel, while temporarily satiating the Neocons incessant desire for regime change. This argument suggests that Trump may have been attempting to outmaneuver the slippery Neocons, possibly offsetting any future attempt at regime change in Damascus.
Time will tell what Trump will do next, but for now we must assume he is essentially a puppet of the powers-that-be, the Deep State, and no different from his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. In other words, the assault against Syria will continue by hook or by crook. In order to understand why, it is important to acknowledge some fundamental changes that have occurred in the Trump administration as of late.
Same as the old boss?
There is an old saying that goes: “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.” The same adage applies to a president’s team of advisers and the nation’s corresponding foreign policy.
Trump’s rush for a military response in Syria came following a major reshuffling in his government. For example, Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s chief strategists, was removed from the National Security Council at the very time the decision to attack Syria was being hatched. This move rattled even diehard Trump supporters because Bannon was brought on board precisely due to his more isolationist, anti-war stance.
Here is Bloomberg’s breakdown on Trump’s sidelined adviser:
“Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, is one of Trump’s most trusted and controversial advisers. He has channeled the populist and nationalist sentiment that propelled Trump’s presidential campaign, and his placement on the NSC committee drew criticism from some members of Congress and Washington’s foreign policy.”
In hindsight, it appears possible that Trump, in true hustler fashion, may have recruited Bannon, 63, simply to attract the votes of the so-called alt-right, the name for a growing contingency of Americans who do not subscribe to the neo-Liberal, globalist agenda, opting instead for an “America First” policy.
So, who is guiding Trump’s foreign policy now that Bannon has been duly sidelined? Disturbingly for many conservatives that person is none other than 36-year-old Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, who once donated heavily to Democrat causes and candidates. In fact, Kushner, who many accuse of being a closet Liberal, seems to represent the very establishment swamp creatures Trump promised to remove. Although Kushner’s sway over his father-in-law may be exaggerated, the Western mainstream media, which has never given Steve Bannon an ounce of fair coverage, certainly doesn’t think so.
“Bannon and Kushner locked in White House ‘power struggle,” screamed a Guardian headline.
“The Kushner-Bannon feud is about ideology – and Steve Bannon is losing,”sneered Salon.
“Trump’s Syria strike is latest sign of Steve Bannon’s waning influence,” gleefully declared a headline in New York magazine.
The problem with Jared Kushner, not to mention his wife Ivanka, suddenly gaining so much influence in the Trump administration is that nobody really knows much about the power couple. But one thing we know for certain, Jared and Ivanka, both of whom have offices in shouting distance of the Oval Office, fully supported the Syrian attack. To what degree they influenced the president is another question.
Then, there is a mysterious fellow named Ezra Cohen-Watnick, 30, a suddenly influential National Security Council official who is hardly ever seen. Yet, according to a report in Newsweek, Cohen-Watnick, who was anonymously described by his friends as having “sympathy for illegal Israeli settlements and other hardline political views,” has already risen like a star “from the equivalent rank of an army captain to a three-star general” inside the Trump administration.
So, when you combine the powerful influence of Jared, Ivanka and Ezra with other new members of the Trump administration, including the likes of Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who seems to have an inherent disdain for Iran; and new National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, who desperately wants a ground war in Syria; there is some reason for concern that the next 100 days of Donald Trump’s rule may be very interesting, and not in a good way.
By Robert Bridge