Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

One week before the 2016 presidential election, Chris Matthews posed a question on his MSNBC program. Why, Matthews asked, was Donald Trump’s campaign so feckless? Why wasn’t he on the stump every day asking voters questions like, “Do you like this string of stupid wars from Iraq to Libya to Syria?” Such a strategy, Matthews suggested, would provide the country with a clear choice: If “you want to keep all this the way it is, vote for Hillary Clinton,” but voting for Trump would “shake the system to its roots.”

Last night, Trump’s administration launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for the Syrian military’s reported murder of its citizens with chemical weapons. The strikes further enmesh the nation in a civil war with no easy solutions.

By itself, the attack is the sort of “pinprick” that Republicans would likely scorn if it had been ordered by a Democratic president, threatening neither the survival of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime nor his ability to use such weapons in the future. If, as seems likely, this fails to change Assad’s behavior, it could lead to an unpredictable, escalating series of military actions against a close Russian strategic ally. There’s little indication that the White House has considered the potential cost of that fight or who would lead Syriaif Assad falls.

It seems like Trump is leading us into what Matthews might call a “stupid war.” And that comes after escalations in U.S. uses of military force in Iraq and Yemen, both at the cost of civilian loss of life.

To be clear, the argument that Trump was some sort of non-interventionist dove — a dead letter since his ascendency to the presidency, especially in light of last night’s attack — made no sense at the time.

Trump supported U.S. military attacks on Iraq and Libya before he told the world he was against them. During the campaign, he said that we “have no choice” but to deploy tens of thousands of ground troops into Syria “to knock out ISIS,” backed military action against Iran, and refused to take using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe off the table.

Beyond the garden-variety, off-the-cuff calls for military force, Trump has explicitly supported using the armed forces for war crimes. For years, he has said that we should “take” Iraq’s oil as a way to “pay ourselves back” for the invasion. He promised to kill the families of terrorists in order to defeat ISIS. He said that he would bring back banned interrogation techniques because “torture works,” and “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work,” and terrorists “deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”

But somehow, as Trump and Clinton clinched their party’s nominations and the general election campaign began last spring, the political media’s savviest pundits were determined to cast the Republican as the race’s national security dove. By cherry-picking comments in which Trump presented himself as a foe of nation-building, misreading his attacks on bedrock U.S. foreign alliances as evidence of a coherent ideological framework, and ignoring his grotesque sabre-rattling and threats of violence, these journalists created a narrative that wandered far from reality.

Trump has not “demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has,” New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported on April 21. He “wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves.” Thus, Landler concluded, the election could “present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior.”

Over the next month, two of Landler’s colleagues expressed similar sentiments. Columnist Maureen Dowd declared that “On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.” According to Dowd, “Trump seems less macho than Hillary,” given that he “thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea” (that isn’t true).

And Times senior editor of politics Carolyn Ryan struck a similar tone during an appearance on MSNBC, suggesting that Trump’s foreign policy positions will “redraw the typical ideological lines.”

With the Times taking the lead, the accolades for Trump’s purported dovishness piled up over the following months. Trump’s “Republican isolationism” would “ground the drones.”  (Since taking office, Trump has actually sought to “make it easier for the CIA and the military to target terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties.”) He could “be the military-industrial complex’s worst nightmare.” (He’s currently seeking a $54 billion increase in spending for the Defense Department.)

“On more than one issue, GOP’s Trump sounds like a Democrat,” the Associated Press reported May 15. On national defense, “the billionaire businessman could even find himself running to the left of Hillary Clinton.”

Before the first 100 days of the Trump administration has ended, their isolationist dove has escalated U.S. fighting in at least three countries, with more trouble spots looming.

Just don’t expect them to learn anything from the experience.

 

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22 responses to “Trump Just Attacked Syria. Here Are The Pundits Who Said He Was A Dove”

  1. dbtheonly says:

    Hanging labels on Trump is a particularly futile exercise. The labels themselves are meaningless. What is a “hawk”? What is a “dove”?

    What Trump has done is merely what President Obama considered and was uniformly opposed by the RWMO. View this instead as yet another example of RWMO hypocrisy.

    Have you seen the crowds cheering “Abu Ivanka al

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    • dpaano says:

      He’s already done that in many countries overseas!

  2. Dominick Vila says:

    If it is true that Bashar al Assad, with or without Russian support, launched a chemical attack against civilians, he deserves international condemnation and punishment for crimes against humanity. I don’t have a problem with Trump’s air strike, even though I consider it opportunistic and feeble. I suspect the attack was influenced more by a desire to distance Trump from Putin, make us forget the U.S. air strike that killed dozens of women and children in Mosul a week earlier, and the need to find a distraction from the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in our 2016 election, and potential complicity by Trump and some of his staffers, than genuine outrage over the killings of innocent civilians in Syria, whose struggle and fate we have dismissed in the past. It is also important to remember that the air strike did not intimidate Assad, the Russians, Chinese, or Kim Jong Un. In fact, their reaction suggest they see it as a demonstration of unwillingness to engage militarily, and sacrifice American lives to help someone else or pursue geo-political interests the way we did throughout the last century.

    • dpaano says:

      Dom….see my note above. Putin was told about this bombing several hours before it occurred, so you can guess that Assad had been forewarned by the Russians! This is why nothing of any value was damaged!

      • Dominick Vila says:

        Incredibly, or perhaps not, the right wingers are praising Trump for being unpredictable and for not advertising his “strategy” in advance!

  3. FireBaron says:

    Yeah. He launched 59 missiles, and not one of them landed any place where it did real damage. You don’t attack a military airbase without destroying the runways (none hit), the hangars (none hit), or the munitions bunkers (none hit). However, they may have damaged the Officers’ Club and the Football Pitch.

    As for his being a Hawk, well, I would rank Teflon Donnie as the typical “Chicken Hawk”. He is more than willing to put everyone else’ butts on the line, as long as his is thoroughly covered. Given that he still has Priebus, Spicer and Bannon to throw under the bus, if needed, he has his cover.

    • dpaano says:

      And, FireBaron, this is because Trump advised Russia ahead of the bombing that he was going to send Tomahawk missiles into Syria. That gave Putin enough time to let Assad know to move his planes, etc. He accomplished NOTHING except to show us his well-known cooperation with the Russian government! But, I’m sure his followers think he’s the greatest thing on earth! I’m still waiting for his so-called “plan” to get rid of ISIS in 2 weeks???? Apparently, there is NO plan, much like there’s NO plan to replace Obamacare, NO plan to release his tax returns; NO plan to prove his tweet about President Obama supposedly wiretapping Trump Tower, and I could go on and on!!! Deep down, we ALL know he has NO plans….he just makes things up as he goes along!

  4. itsfun says:

    Terrible things have been ongoing for over 2000 years now in that part of the world. Terrible things will probably still be going on 2000 years from now. We can’t and should not be the police and moral compass of the world. We won’t be able to change the Muslim religion and their treatment of people. We can’t stop the Chinese government from killing babies if the family already has one child. How many civil wars will we get involved in the world. Instead of spending billions of dollars on the rest of the world, why not spend some money here and help the homeless, the poor, etc.

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  6. A great article pointing out on the one hand the opportunistic nature of a feckless, cowardly individual, Donald John Trump(Drumpf by ancestry), who doesn’t care about consequences so long as he and his wealth are untouched and remain intact.
    And the article points out a trend taking place in many quarters in America, where we see a surfeit of so-called Christians slinking back into an Old Testament “Eye for an Eye” approach to dialogue and behavior on a personal and internal level. This troubling and backwards trend is most pronounced among those who refer to themselves as “Conservatives”—one benighted recent participant in this forum has coined a new word to define a new Christian sect which she calls “Conservative Christian”.

    With that sort of lunacy and fragmenting of society, it’s little wonder that other nations look at America as a rudderless ship, adrift in the “Sea of Narcissism and Truculence”, with bickering child-like Congressmen who still can’t figure out how to be adults in this “Age of Maturity” and seeking to consolidate power and asserting its influence over others. Baha’u’llah refers to this Age as that of Maturity, due to our new capacities and potential. A potential, alas, which has yet to be expressed, and is still under wraps for too many of us, marked with self-made labels “DON’T OPEN UNTIL WE’VE DESTROYED OURSELVES”.

  7. dpaano says:

    What’s truly interesting is that, from what I’ve heard, he let Russia (Putin) know several hours before the attack so that Putin could make sure that Assad had his aircraft off the runways, etc. The only REAL damage to the bomb site was a few buildings….no aircraft was damaged, no runways were damaged, no fuel dumps were damaged…..so, what in heck did he accomplish except to try to make himself look like a superman! What a jackass!

    • ivory69690@yahoo.com says:

      PUTTHEAD knows he messed up our election with his B/S hacking and now he knows he can and more likely will drop the bomb of the USA government . all he has to do now PUTTHEAD just have an interview where he states and admits yes I hacked into your election and it was me that made DONNY DUMP WIN . HE THEN CAN SAY IT WAS HILLARY that was winning and was going to win but DONNY SUMP called me and we together planed the way he could win the election and steal it from Hillary . and then PUTTHEAD the deal was made between DONNY DUMP and himself that if PUTTHEAD helped him win then the DUMPSTERS part of the deal would be just to lift the sanctions and the deal would be paid off in full .

  8. ivory69690@yahoo.com says:

    the clown DONNY DUMP has no clue whats going on he’s trying to play a tough guy . but by right all he is an 5 time draft dodging COWARD the funny thing is he seems to have a little sense while Obama was in the house when he was CHILD MINDED CLOWN TWEETING and told Obama he souldnt go in any place and fight JUST SAYING STAY OUT OF IT ALL . but seems now his deranged child minded EGO is getting the best of him acting the TOUGH GUY that he will never be . he was is and always will be just a WOMEN BEATTING COWARD now you can watch the DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW as he turns Syria into the next big money loss since Iraq . he don’t care he will do that he has always done best worse for every one else and that bury the country into his FAV. debt . he knows he can blow way more money then another Pres. has and he’s happy to prove it the DUMPSTER FILLED WITH HIS BULL -SHIFTING his crap . he is nothing but a PUNK BIG MOUTH COWARD that will build up only debt for the USA

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