Saturday, April 08, 2017

The obvious concern

Now, one has to admit that if Hillary were president, she would have authorised a similar attack on Syria (she said so herself.)  And several Democrats have said they think the attack was proportionate and OK.

So why should people who would have preferred her be criticising Trump?  Well, obviously:

1.  the massive, massive hypocrisy.   And the suspicion, which Republicans would have been pushing hard if the shoe had been on the other foot, that Assad may have been encouraged to use chemical weapons due the signalling from Tillerson and Trump only a day or two prior that they no longer had removing him as any part of their goal.

But, better late to do the right thing late than not to do it at all?   That's one argument, but it doesn't get around:

2.  the almost instantaneous change that some televised images, and some extremely rapid assessment of responsibility, brought in Trump.  Let's face it, despite the same (or stronger) support  Democrats may have given Hillary if it had been her attack, the history of US intelligence used to justify Middle East attacks does indicate grounds for caution, to put it mildly.  (Although, admittedly, thorough, quick and independent investigation of anything in that hell hole of a country is probably extremely difficult.)   In other words, if it had been Clinton's authorisation, in the same time frame, people should have had the same concern as well.

But by far, the worst and most dangerous concern in this is:

3.  Trump is getting swooning media praise for the attack, and we have never seen a President so obsessed  with media "reviews" of his performance. There is every reason to expect this will make Trump trigger happy in future, and it is somewhat dismaying that even mainstream American media does not recognize that before editorialising on the issue.

Of course, Fox News (and Mark Steyn) were busy giving him a tongue bath about it the morning after - that should be warning enough.  But there was praise on CNN and other outlets - who can doubt that he would be lapping it up?

Some commentary on American sites is expressing concern:

In Slate: Elites Are Giddy Over Trump’s Airstrike in Syria, and That’s Terrifying

Ezra Klein writes, with obvious truth:  Trump’s foreign policy is dangerously impulsive
This, above all else, is what is worrying about Trump on foreign policy: He is unpredictable and driven by whims. He is unmoored from any coherent philosophy of America’s role in the world, and no one — perhaps not even him — truly knows what he’ll do in the event of a crisis.
Obama’s policy on Syria was perpetually paralyzed by fear of escalation. Trump’s policy on Syria is volatile precisely because he doesn’t seem to have thought through questions of escalation. This is a foreign policy based on intuition and emotion, and there is danger in that.
(As for what constant and confusing contrarian Nassim Taleb thinks about it - I think he is indicating semi approval, as a "sending a message" to Assad, but also China and Russia!  I think that is nonsense, myself.  Russia did get a message: "Vlad, you'd better get your planes and pilots off that airfield, some cruise missiles will be there in an hour.  And don't tell Assad, promise?")

Finally, I warned before that it was silly to think that defence manufacturers were doing anything other than seeing their long term financial benefit on the rise when they were buttering up Trump by saying "yes, he's forced us to reconsider the cost of program X, and we'll do it cheaper for him."   They know that this gullible and easily manipulated President is like manna from heaven for them...

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