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Has Trump Launched The Next Great American Catastrophe In The Middle East?

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Has Trump Launched The Next Great American Catastrophe In The Middle East?

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Syria, Turkey, Russia

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

It was that rarest of occasions when Barack Obama and Donald Trump were thinking very much alike.

In September 2013, President Obama was besieged by demands to attack Syria over a ghastly chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta that killed 1,500 people. Obama‘s logic tracked with Trump’s. There was no upside to attacking Syria, only a tremendous downside. Obama reached that conclusion by careful study of his options. Trump reached that conclusion by the seat of his pants.

Today President Trump faces much the same predicament as his predecessor, and has already ordered an initial military strike, launching 59 tomahawk missiles at a Syrian Government airbase. The imagery from the town of Idlib province where a Syrian government chemical attack killed at least 69 people is sickening. The calls for U.S. action are growing.

What is the upside of a unilateral U.S. military response? Punishing Assad the war criminal may be psychologically satisfying on some level. The airstrikes might deter him from using chemical weapons again. They also might not.

Learning Curve

Trump is going to learn from this international crisis that there is no unilateral U.S. military action that can oust the Syrian dictator or change the balance of power on the battlefield ruins of his country. Despite Trump’s bluster, you can’t “bomb the sh*t” out of your enemies.

Going to the U.N. Security Council to build international support for a military response or prosecution of Assad as a war criminal is a theoretical policy option. But it is not a real possibility under an administration that is hostile to the United Nations and the idea of multilateral cooperation.

Can Trump learn from the past?

With lemons for options, Obama chose to make lemonade. Instead of a unilateral missile strike, he let Secretary of State John Kerry work out a deal with the Russians to dismantle and remove Assad’s chemical arsenal. Between October 2013 and June 2014, some 1,300 metric tons of deadly weaponized poison gas was removed from the battlefield under international supervision.

That was a tremendous accomplishment. Imagine if Assad still had those chemical weapons. We might be seeing an attack like Idlib province every week. But it is small consolation when Assad is still in power and still willing to obtain and use chemical weapons.

Now Trump, like Obama, faces the very real limitations on what an American president can actually do. Trump said Wednesday that Assad’s use of chemical weapons crossed a line, in fact, “many, many lines.” He now faces the same dilemma as his predecessor: Is he going to enforce his impulsively drawn “line in the sand” with even greater U.S. military action?

Trump is addressing the issue with the help of a newly professionalized National Security Council. By ousting the armchair intellectual Steve Bannon, Trump has acceded to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. At least the president is getting advice from a professional, not a propagandist.

The Playbook

But the Syria options McMaster is presenting to Trump are likely to follow what Obama derisively called the “playbook.”

“There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow,” Obama told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. “It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”

Trump faces a different situation than Obama did in 2013. The Syrian government has consolidated its battlefield gains. The rebels, led by Al-Qaeda and supported heavily by the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, are in retreat. Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, are not budging. Russia is defending Syria’s action, not very convincingly. Iran has strongly condemned the attacks, but will not attack Assad.

Trump has a political opening. But that would require him to restrain himself from further military action, and engaging in creative diplomacy, an activity he seeks to defund and downgrade.
This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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43 Comments

    1. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

      If this is all you have in your hate arsenal, your weaponry is running low. Try again Putin bot.

    2. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 9, 2017

      The stench of desperation coming off you is OVERWHELMING, loser.

  1. Aaron Zanzibari April 7, 2017

    Discounting the gaseous output by Godzilla(as a result of an excessive desire to consume road-kill), we have a President who doesn’t have the mental wherewithal that his predecessor has, nor the self-control and emotional stability, to steer himself through a morass which Trump himself added to by his rabid “AMERICA FIRST AND AMERICA ONLY” diatribe on Inauguration Day, and Tillerson’s pusillanimous assertion that Syrians should go it alone to resolve their differences.

    And add to that the baggage of having Steve Bannon in tow, along with incapacious “yes-men” surrounding the child President, and we have a crisis about to get more volatile, with long-term deleterious results for the children and youth of the future in America, in Syria, and elsewhere in the world.

    And then there is still the question of Trump’s relationship with Putin. If Trump has hidden ties with Trump, this may lead Donald to more rash behavior, lead Trump to do no more than give Putin and Assad each a slap on the wrist, or drive Trump to retreat again behind “AMERICA FIRST AND AMERICA ONLY”—a motto his millions of adoring fans fell for.

    Reply
    1. Mercedesmgaymon April 8, 2017

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    2. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

      All anyone needs to know about social media “deviants” like Godzilla, Mike, Informed Voter and Itsy is that they are paid to churn out garbage posts.

      Demand proof from them and they either use some right wing biased tripe or they ignore the demand for legal proof.

      All of which serves to prove their totally delusionary state of mind.

  2. Dominick Vila April 8, 2017

    Increasing involvement in Middle Eastern affairs and religious wars, our immature and arrogant criticisms of other countries, including our allies, the very real threat posed by North Korea, are exacerbated by the rise of unpredictable, immature, and mentally unstable persons to positions of power. The next few years are likely to be a defining moment in the history of humanity.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

      In the non-fiction book, “Safe for Democracy, The Secret Wars of the CIA” by John Prados, the history of the dysfunction between Russia and the US goes back to near the end of World War II. Russia’s overreach in Romania, for example, resulted in US airmen being held prisoner and being evacuated by the CIA’s OSS. By then Stalin already mobilized Russia’s nationalism with Soviet ideology. Russia has always had deep ethnic and cultural differences ranging from Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, Ukranians, Uzbeks and Asians. Stalin was from the Caucasus Region known as Georgia.

      Thus, Russia’s continued battles with the US for power. Russia is not now nor ever will capitulate to American power. All anyone has to do to realize this is to take a long look at Russian history. There have been battles among Russia’s peasantry and the Moscovites “Soviets” since before the Czars were in power.

      Trump is desperate to take the spotlight off his guilt and to do anything and everything he possibly can to FORCE an end to any investigations into his relationship with Putin.

      One of Donald Trump’s long time friends, Christopher Ruddy, who meets with him according to Time Magazine’s April Issue, in Florida, said this about Trump:
      “The President has a history of being a negotiator. If I look back, I think he is always in a state of negotiation with everybody all the time. He takes an exaggerated position to create a “new” middle ground. He moves the goalposts to “force” other people to move.”

      That may work in real estate deals. But when you are president of the US and leader of the free world, it gets tiresome and old and making one excuse after another, coupled with outright lies, doesn’t bode well for national security or America’s status as a world leader.

      1. Dominick Vila April 8, 2017

        I could not agree with you more. I also think that Trump, and his team, are under estimating Putin’s and the Kremlin’s resolve to restore the old glory of the Soviet Empire…without Bolshevik communism.

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        2. mike April 9, 2017

          No Dom, the only “underestimating” is the left when comes to Trump. The world has known for years that Putin wants the good old days back with invasion of Crimea, Ukraine. Oops, except spineless Obama

    2. mike April 8, 2017

      What is a defining moment is the message that Trump gave to the rest of the world. Obama was a spineless leader who allowed ISIS to grow into a major threat to the region. Declared a “red line in the sand” and then acted like a coward when Hitler like Assad challenged him. Because of his ‘red line” debacle Russia gained a greater hold in the country. The world was less safe under Obama, the weak.
      The attack was measured and successful.
      What Trump has done is not underestimating Moscow’s interest in undermining U.S. influence in Middle East as Obama did. Trump is not overestimating Russia willingness to cooperate in Syria against ISIS which Obama naively did,
      Only you would think that he isn’t paying attention to North Korea.
      “exacerbated by the rise of unpredictable, immature, and mentally unstable persons to positions of power” is pure baloney on your part.
      You underestimated Trump during the election and you continue to do today.
      Trump is in his 78th day and each day he is dismantling Obama’s overreach and failed policies.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

        What is a defining moment is the message Trump sent to right wingers and Republicans: “I am King and my royal family and I don’t NEED you anymore. Gotcha!”

        Your post once again proves that liars always rely on false accusations. The fact is that Syria is Russia’s problem. That Trump stuck his nose into Syria is nothing more than a distraction to get all of off his guilt for “how” he “won” the 2016 election. But, he does deserve credit for hiding his numerous phone calls all this past week with Putin.

        By the way, can you explain why a civilian on the ground in Syria claimed on Wednesday on NPR and BBC that the Russians attacked a chemical plant operated by Assad?

        Can you also explain why this man standing on Syrian soil said that it appeared that Putin was prewarned of the attack Trump carried out?

        Can you explain why Assad’s military base was evacuated of personnel hours before the attacks as this Syrian man stated?

        No. You can’t and WHY can’t you? Because YOU live in Trump’s fantasy world.

        So you bitched Hillary killed 4. Trump kills dozens of innocent Syrian civilians but your brain is only after Hillary and Obama. Get help sicko. Doesn’t Putin offer mental healthcare for his nuts like you?

        1. mike April 9, 2017

          Are you really as insane as your posts indicated?
          So the Russians attacked a chemical plant operated by Assad. Correct? Do you not know how ridiculous that sounds. Russia who is propping up Assad has to revert to bombing because they have no control over Assad. Really? Assad is building chemical weapons and Russia’s only choice is to bomb. How ludicrous and quite frankly nutting on your part.
          Russia was notified in advance using the established deconfliction line to minimize risk to personnel. Why were their air defenses silent? To be humiliated by the U.S.? Russia doesn’t want to go to war against U.S. in a losing cause. U.S. didn’t target barracks they targeted work shops, fuel storage, ammo storage, aircraft and hangers.
          Only a deranged person as you and the left would think this didn’t make Putin look bad in the eyes of the world.
          Your Trump Derangement Syndrome continues in your wee little brain. How funny!

      2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 8, 2017

        You chose to show a little intelligence, but you’re still like a reptilian in your response and thinking. You see a stimulus, you strike out with a shallow aravistic response, you recoil to assess the damage you’ve done, then slither away, content that you’ve done your duty.
        The message from Trump? As always, his message is to beguile simple-minded people who are impressed by the quick-draw, but don’t think about what may happen tomorrow or down the road.
        Your world is a constrained by constipated thinking and the delight in primeval responses.

        1. mike April 8, 2017

          A-aron
          What I see and read from you pseudointellectuals are thoughts that are either wishful thinking or absence of the truth.
          When your ilk talk stupidly it is my delight to show just how wrong and ignorant you sound.
          Actually your last post sums up exactly why you lost the elections in 2010, 2014 and 2016. You had no clue or understanding just how bad the American people were fed up with you and Obama’s superior than thou attitude which cost you dearly. White House gone! Senate gone! House gone! Double digit loses in Governorships and 1000 democratic state legislature seats gone. Weakest political power since the twenties. How funny.
          Gorsuch heads to the SCOTUS. Obama’s overreach going down the sh*thole and all you can do is watch.
          How refreshing!

          1. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 9, 2017

            Why does an illiterate high-school dropout who can never quite use punctuation properly think they’re in a position to call other people pseudo-intellectuals? Baffling.

          2. kep April 9, 2017

            Liberals can’t stand that they lost power that they thought would propel them into their liberal communist utopia. When saying Trump is a Russian puppet, they are only trying to coverup their own involvement with Putin. Most of these posters ARE communists living in Russia. They certainly are not Americans.

          3. mike April 9, 2017

            The democratic party has been pulled so far to the radical left they no longer have an identity, an electable leader or an agenda. Each day they have their hissy fits Trumps moves the country back on the right track for real growth and each day more of the Obama failures are dismantled.
            Isn’t it interesting how all their attacks on Trump have blown up in their face, making them look even more ridiculous.

      3. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 9, 2017

        Wow that all sounds awful. Nothing like that happened in this dimension, Bizaaro dude.

        1. mike April 9, 2017

          Not surprised the Village Idiot(you) can’t grasp the real world.
          Only an idiot like you would deny Obama and his “red line in the sand.”
          So sad.

          1. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 9, 2017

            OK sorry you have to make up a weird fake history to justify the stupid things you believe.

            Normal people don’t have to do that.

          2. kep April 9, 2017

            Village idiot is a very good description.

  3. plc97477 April 8, 2017

    I don’t know much about narcissists. Haven’t befriended many in my life. What is the most likely action for a narcissists when his house of cards falls in on him?

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

      Actually, Trump’s ACT is already wearing thin on his own supporters. First, his repeal and replace went down the toilet. Sessions was forced to recuse himself and is also now under investigation as are 2 others in the Trump Cabinet and this is only the 1st 100 days.

      Tillerson, who is supposed to the Secretary of State, had no say in the Syrian attack because Trump as usual, preferred to keep it all a secret. I’m sure the Republicans loved being cut out of Trump’s loop.

      Now, his attempts to dissolve the EPA are also going down the toilet because 11 state governors are threatening to sue.

      His wall is already a failure because of the status of the failed engineering design. As I worked with engineers for nearly 25 years I can tell you what happens when a Knows Nothing tries to dictate engineering to professionals with P.E. licenses: disaster.

      You may be sure that Trump’s narcissism is as he states, “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m President and you’re not.”

      Watch the Trump pedestal and the Lard Ass in Chief fall off for no reason other than his inability to accept that in government, HE answers to the people, a fact Putin is about to also learn.

      There are protestors in the streets in Moscow. Putin doesn’t dare openly give the order to have them shot as he does the dissenters he murders on the QT.

      If ever there were two leaders who were perfect examples of narcissism, Putin and Trump are it. But…remember the other 2 narcissists of infamy in history, Mussolini and Hitler? Remember how their lives ended? All due to their failure to own up to their own brand of evil.

      1. plc97477 April 8, 2017

        I was wondering if maybe the likely outcome to trumps failure would be a bullet to the head. I can’t see him living up to the failure that is his whole life.

        1. Eleanore Whitaker April 8, 2017

          Trump only takes credit. He never gives it. Nor, does he ever admit failure. Failure belongs to everyone else. Never him. Sick minds are like this. You can visit a mental institution where the criminally insane are housed and see this kind of paranoid superiority complex quickly.

          If there is one thing we don’t want, it is for him to be assassinated or to commit suicide. He won’t ever off himself. He’s too much a coward. He would only do that if he lost the trust of his beloved Ivanka. Which, when you think about how she manipulated Bannon out of job so her cuckold husband, Jared would be the president in vitro, just might be a possibility. Otherwise, Trump is predisposed to the same kind of paranoid control right wing fanatics are.

          1. plc97477 April 8, 2017

            You are right. He is going to blame his failure on Obama.

          2. kep April 9, 2017

            Unlike blaming Bush for all his multiple failures, like Emperor Obama?

          3. TZToronto April 9, 2017

            I do not recall President Obama blaming Dubya for the mess in Iraq, the failure to find and eliminate OBL, or even complain about the economic mess he inherited. He simply got to work trying to fix the broken pieces. I also don’t recall him complaining that the GOP Congress worked tirelessly to obstruct his attempts to make things better. Heck, he didn’t even complain that his SCOTUS nominee was being blocked by McConnell. So I have no idea what you are talking about–unless it’s the projection in your head that makes you state things you’d do if you were in the same situation. Always look to blame someone else for you failures, do you?

          4. kep April 10, 2017

            The Emperor blamed EVERYONE but himself, just like all you liberal commies do.

          5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 12, 2017

            Settle down, kep. You’re on the launch pad, ready to go into orbit at the rate you’re ranting.

          6. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 12, 2017

            Time for you to get some fresh air, kep. The only emperor we’ve ever had is in the Oval Office now, his eminence, Lord Fauntleroy John Trump.

          7. kep April 9, 2017

            You are describing your diety, Obama

      2. kep April 9, 2017

        So today the NJ Catlady is an engineer? Last week you were a teacher. The week before you were a CEO. Before that, you were some officer. You puff yourself up and lie to sui your situation, just like all these other lying liberals. Most likely, you are one of Putins trolls.

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 12, 2017

          You’re a mouse compared to any woman, kep. Just a miserable man crying out for help in your loneliness.
          A Putin troll? You’re delirious, a sycophant, and merely cannon-fodder for the GOP—all in one day.

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 8, 2017

      I never thought much of narcissism in the past—it seemed like something that only the Greeks were aware of and chose to comment on. But now with Trump, we have the first larger than mythology example of a narcissist, and it’s not a pretty picture at all.

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