Listen up world, there’s a new sheriff in town.
Given the essayist style of this blog, it’s impossible to churn out a decent piece every day, which is what you’ve got to do to ramp up the numbers according to those in the know. I’m sure that’s true but since I’m not interested in the numbers game, it’s not a consideration. It comes down to me putting out one substantial piece once a week. There are advantages to that less than frenetic publication schedule – it gives me time to think of a topic with meat on it, but sometimes it’s the necessary pause for thought about some event that is hot news which everyone is commenting on as it’s unfolding.
News sites by definition have to do this but as this blog is not a news site, I can concentrate more on what is the meaning or the implications of the particular event. By its very nature, an honest analysis and opinion piece will provoke a certain amount of disagreement which is why I allow comments under each piece because they show me alternative interpretations. I stopped thinking of myself as infallible pretty soon into my early teens and I’m always interested in differing interpretations of events.
News reporting in general has gone down the tubes because the people jokingly practising the profession formerly known as journalism see no harm in themselves actively massaging the news for whatever political crusade they happen to be totally dedicated to. Given that mindset, it was both inevitable that fake news would become a widespread abuse and also that people would become increasingly cynical of any news coming from that type of source.
CNN is now a prime example of a media company’s catastrophic loss of trust in a business area whose very existence had been predicated on that very thing since its inception.
I’d like to discuss Trump’s strike against Assad. As is my wont, I’ll approach the discussion of the strike using nothing more than asking the question why, because beyond the certain fact that a strike did actually occur, the reportage on the details is highly suspect. Details are either being made up courtesy of “anonymous” sources, judiciously cherry picked or even in some cases God only knows accurate, but the waters have been so thoroughly muddied by now it’s impossible to trust any facts. I’ll leave you to pick your way through that particular wilderness of mirrors while I scout forward along the why path.
First off, why should Assad launch a chemical strike?
There are a number of things at work here. The traditional one is that every new president very early on in their administration gets a provocative test crisis from some raggedy-assed dictator. How they handle it will shape the whole course of foreign policy during their presidency. If they wimp out, they’ll get walked on for the next four years. If they man up, the minor players go into yessir mode and the major ones start to walk carefully in America’s presence.
The contrast between the successive Carter and Reagan administrations is the perfect example. Iran against all diplomatic conventions invaded the US embassy in Tehran and held the embassy staff hostage for over a year, totally humiliating Carter and dragging out the whole thing to seemingly bring the Great Satan to its knees on the world stage. Reagan, asked shortly after his inauguration what he was going to do about the Tehran situation, replied in a candid moment we get them back in ten days or we declare war. The hostages were released within the week.
The Iranians realised they were dealing with someone who meant what he said and had no problem using American military might. Their year-long bluff with Carter had been called.
Assad had eight years experience of dealing with a weak American president and made an assumption that Trump came from the same mould. Obama had sternly warned him not to use chemical weapons because that would be crossing what he called one of his red lines. Assad completely ignored him and his lines, used the weapons anyway and Obama as usual talked a great fight, dithered and actually did nothing. The ever helpful Vladimir Putin saw a golden opportunity and stepped in to negotiate an honest broker deal between America and Syria.
The shame of it, a postage stamp sized dictatorship treating with a superpower like America on equal terms and with the added insult to injury of Russia pretending to do the mediation. From then on, every toss-pot country and aberrant political grouping knew they could push Obama around and win every time. And they did.
The starting shot to take liberties was fired and things like Putin gobbling up bits of the Ukraine while America did nothing became the norm. Lots of people will tell you different, but that’s the basic reason America was entangled in a shooting war for every day of Obama’s eight year presidency. Never forget, those wars because of a lack of strong leadership needlessly caused the loss of American lives as well as others.
Syria agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons stockpile. Everybody was a winner. Obama was hailed a foreign policy genius at home by an adoring media, Russian influence in the Arab world increased immeasurably, Assad avoided some dreadful unspecified response from Obama which he knew was never going to happen and as every man and his dog knew, the Syrians didn’t destroy all their chemical weapons.
Everybody lied and deceived and they all knew it, but that didn’t matter because they all got away with it until last week’s chemical strike and a pile of bodies that revealed the ugly truth behind the face-saving lies.
Assad knew a centre piece of Trump’s administration was the complete destruction of ISIS, so anything he did against that deliberately blurred line of Syrian rebels and ISIS that he was fighting against for nothing more than the survival of his regime, Trump would turn a blind eye to. He was relying on that perennial curse of American foreign policy; the idea that an enemy of my enemy is a friend, regardless of whatever filthy domestic policies they pursue.
The biggest assumption Assad made was that Trump wouldn’t dare go beyond rhetoric because Russia was backing his regime, and he wouldn’t want to offend them. If his presidential campaign showed anything, it was that Trump wasn’t too concerned about offending people and all too often the people he offended turned out to be paper tigers who could safely be ignored thereafter.
The last and worst assumption was that Trump as a human being with the full power of the American military behind him, wouldn’t be appalled and angered by seeing the results of the chemical strike on civilians. The unknown that was Trump was thought to be just as cynical as Assad himself.
Every one of those assumptions proved to be catastrophically wrong for Assad.
There’s a new sheriff in town, he’s nothing like the old one and he responded with force within forty-eight hours. No warnings, no negotiations, no fucking around getting a mandate from an irrelevant and useless talk shop UN. Just fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles arriving out of the darkness and destroying twenty percent of your air force. You keep it up, he’ll keep it up and the audacity of the move demonstrates he doesn’t give a damn what anybody says.
Why hasn’t Putin made some substantial response beyond some formulaic statements by government underlings?
Basically he hadn’t much in the way of options on the day. By all accounts, Trump excused himself from a state dinner with visiting Chinese dignitaries to telephone Putin. The conversation I imagine was brutally simple once the niceties of diplomacy were stripped off it. Cruise missiles are already in the air and going to hit Assad’s air force base that launched the chemical attack. You’ve got half an hour before they arrive. I’ve given you fair warning, get your planes and people out of there. Clunk.
The base in question was protected by the Russian S400 Growler missile intercept system which is designed to take out anything moving up to a height of nearly one hundred thousand feet, which although a comfort to the Syrians was pretty useless at a cruise missile snaking at you at hundreds of miles an hour and contour hugging the nap-of-the-earth at no greater height than one hundred feet. There was nothing Putin or his Growlers could do which would prevent the strike.
Apparently the sight of Russian jets scrambling inexplicably into the night and their ground crews getting the hell off base provided a belated clue to the Syrians, who promptly started doing the same themselves, which explains the curiously low fatalities suffered in the strike.
In the aftermath, Putin’s responses were only limited to starting WWIII, which he’d never do over a shithole like Syria. He does a good show of being the strong man resurrection of the old Soviet state to both outsiders and domestically but the reality is it’s all piss and wind. When you consider Trump is increasing American defense spending by sixty-five billion dollars and that not too massive increase is actually bigger than the whole of Russia’s current defense budget, the realities start to sink in.
He’s not going to fire Russia’s clones of cruise missiles at Long Island, so he’s got to swallow the Syria strike and the resultant loss of face and rollback of Russian influence in the Arab world. Given Trump’s warning, there were zero Russian casualties in terms of men or material which gives him lots of political wiggle room domestically. He’s not going to do anything stupid beyond doing a fresh reappraisal of America’s new president.
Why did Trump do it? What was in it for him?
In a previous piece, I said Trump’s biggest problem would be restoring American prestige abroad after the cumulative disasters and systemic cowardice of the Obama years. In so many ways, this move addresses that Gordian knot at a single stroke, and Assad handed him that opportunity to do a heads up to the rest of the world that the old America was back in town and with both guns blazing if needed.
Assad knows that after losing twenty percent of his air force in one night and signally nobody rushing to his aid, he better stick to the usual brutality rather than the chemical type if he wants to hang on to that extremely frayed thread of grudging support from America simply because he’s fighting ISIS. He knows now that if Trump gives the nod, he’s gone and in most people’s reckoning in the aftermath of the chemical attack misjudgment, he’s probably gone already.
After some very direct and public chastisement, he’ll be a good boy from now on.
Putin realises he’s not going to be able to bully Trump around the way he did Obama. Those days are gone and I’d surmise he’s moved back to thinking about the creeping gains of ground he made under the push over Obama administration and how to keep them. He’s been stopped but like every bully he realises the probable next step on Trump’s part is retaking that ground, but either way he too has had his slap and will try his best to be a good boy from now on.
Nominally, those two nations were the direct recipient of the message Trump was sending but the real and substantial targets were Iran and North Korea. Let’s do North Korea first.
It’s essentially a mad dog state being run by an unstable megalomaniac who’s got nuclear weapons and whom many people fear thinks he’ll get away with dropping a nuke on South Korea or even Japan. He literally got away with murder under Obama’s reign and has to be reined in. In the immediate wake of the Syria strike, trump sent a naval task force steaming towards North Korea and it is being joined by elements of other navies.
At the same time, China, which shares a border with it has warned them to behave themselves or they’d strike too. They’ve also turned back ships loaded with coal destined for China. It’s the only thing North Korea exports. Against that lot, the added threat of South Korean forces is superfluous.
Such cooperation between such unlikely partners would suggest to me that a lot more pressing issues were discussed between Trump and the Chinese at that White House dinner than the rather trifling problem of Assad and Syria. Kim Jong-un is on the back foot threatening a nuclear response if they all don’t leave him alone to continue his dictatorship of famine and abject misery for his people. He’ll be a good boy from now on or he’s going to have everybody beating down hard on his flatulent ass.
Turning to Iran, the message is stark for them too. It’s patently obvious the phoney pay us and we’ll not go nuclear deal they bullied out of Obama is another sham face-saving accommodation from that era; they’ve taken the money bribe but never paused for a minute in developing the capability to deliver a nuclear missile strike against Israel.
While Trump can’t trash the deal Obama made, he can isolate them from the outside world and absolutely screw into the ground anyone even remotely suspected of supplying them knowledge or materials to reach their goal. And that includes anything from centrifuges right down to paper clips. That’s what is the intent behind the awkwardly named Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Act Of 2017.
If they don’t take on board the message to cease and desist with their nuclear development activities, they’ll get their very own rain of cruise missiles from Trump, and it’ll be followed by the same massive non-reaction the Syrian one got when the single remaining superpower decides to squash someone underfoot like a cockroach. Even for the fundamentalist idiots running Iran, that’s a wake up call. When all the bullshit bluster is cast aside, no one, whether Shia, Sunni or Russian will be lifting a finger to help you.
In terms of domestic reasons for giving Assad a very public smack on the ass, there are several. The first one is that all the Democrat crap congressional investigations into how Trump is some sort of secret agent for the Kremlin get kicked off the field, leaving at my last count about four of these very serious investigations now stranded somewhere between episodes of the Twilight Zone and Monty Python in one of its more surreal moments.
I think you’ll find all those congressional attention seekers who piled into those committees will be otherwise engaged from now on. Basically, he cut the legs out from under that whole rather infantile meme. They and the fake news machine will abort that whole strategy by simply never mentioning it again while they think up some other way to foment a revolution against Trump in a still conservative America.
Good luck with whatever that’ll be, though I’ve no doubt Trump will punt that one as well.
It’s a first step towards restoring American self-esteem which has been longed for all the way through the last eight years of Obama’s panty waist presidency that seemed to have spent those years apologising to the world for America’s mere existence and bending over and grabbing both ankles every time it got fronted up by some chick feed shit-heel nob that nobody had ever heard of and who should have been blasted away on first sight. There was never any need for America to voluntarily put itself in that position and making an example of Syria is the world’s wake up call that those days are well and truly over.
The veracity or not of various conspiracy theories about the chemical attack not originating from Assad are irrelevant. It’s all a win win for Trump either way, since even if Assad didn’t do it, Trump’s response could be seen as a cynical preemptive strike against whoever was going to test his resolve. I wouldn’t put that past him by the way. He has a habit of getting ahead of problems.
I think it was Ronald Reagan who said words to the effect that liberals know so much more than conservatives, but the problem is that so much of what they know just ain’t so. Trump is a lineal descendent of Reagan and those words cover their perception of Trump. They eat and sleep and know him not, though they think they do, and that arrogance has been their undoing all the way through the primaries and then the presidential election. It will persist all the way through his presidency.
When people misapprehend what I call a deep planner as an idiot, it’s just step one of that type of person walking you over a cliff. Yes, he comes with all that cheap golden glitz, the comb over, some serious up and down history, a glamorous younger wife, not the oratory skills of a Lincoln and no record of elected service and yet when you take the time to look carefully at him as an opponent, a few alarm bells should be going off.
He’s always in the public eye yet bleeds little or nothing in the way of hard information about himself. He’s commonly perceived as some sort of simpleton who against all the odds somehow manages to make a great winning move just by chance, and that move is always a minimal one which somehow manages to produce the maximum devastating effect.
When people are still reeling from it, he’s already proceeding with phase two of his own plan. He spends most of his rare interviews listening to people and after a good bit of praising them, makes a firm decision. Pick any of his interviews on YouTube and watch the body language.
When you add all those traits up, which is what I did at the start of last year while looking into him, you’ll get the same surprise I got.
He’s a perceptive intellect not afraid to be perceived as a buffoon, just as long as it advances him towards whatever aim he’s set himself, and like a bloody Terminator he never ever gives up. In the end I came to the conclusion that he was like the Frank Herbert character Count Hasimir Fenring in the novel Dune. It was said of him “a killer with the manners of a rabbit … the most dangerous kind.”
He’s not quite the manners of a rabbit type, but that essential ruse of offering himself up to being underestimated and despised made him President of the United States. One after another, they all fell for it and to this day every man Jack of them still think it was all just dumb luck on his part, a complete fluke. However, when you put all those dumb lucky moves end to end, it starts to look a little bit too improbable to be just lucky. It’s simple Bayes theorem really, the probability of B given A, and when you start chaining the probable outcomes the odds become astronomic.
I looked into him over a year ago and it gradually dawned on me that of all those people groomed for their life for the job of president simply didn’t realise they were a bunch of bickering chimpanzees in a room who casually dismissed the three hundred pound gorilla in it, who was already thinking ahead about what he’d do to unfuck the nearly decade long decay of America’s reputation and foreign relations from the Obama years.
He’s a thinker and a planner and he thinks well ahead, which means he appears to play a very quick and decisive short game but that’s because he’s already been over that ground and is mulling over the resultant moves. By the time the cruise missiles landed in Syria, he already had a fleet steaming towards North Korean shores.
Above all, it was a move absolutely nobody saw coming, and that’s the scary thing for anybody outside of the tent. If you nodded your way through the bits of the above analysis, then putting all the elements together it was a brilliant move that at a stroke addressed so many problems simultaneously and most astoundingly done by a supposed clown who’d yet again and once more and unbelievably so stumbled on precisely the minimum strategy to achieve several maximum results.
With one simple move that involved nothing more than having the bollocks to order some cruise missiles to appear out of the darkness and crush a fourth-rate dictator, he reversed all those bad foreign policy decisions of his predecessor, slammed down a marker to the world that America was back and destroyed the credibility of some minor domestic political irritants. Unlike Obama who was all cardboard oratory and no bollocks, this guy thinks and then acts very decisively.
Make no mistake, the powers outside America have sat up and taken note. As the dawn came up after that strike, the sun shone down upon a world in which there had been a seismic change in power and it was very much back in America’s favour.