Mr. Tough Guy: Trump Breaks Up With Putin… Or Maybe Not.

A few blogs ago I complained that I was having trouble keeping up with the barrage of crap that flies out of the Trump White house and/or the Republican Controlled Congress on a daily or even hourly basis. I sit down to write something and within hours another toxic absurdity of some kind hits the air, it’s actually a little overwhelming. Part of the strategy I’m developing to cope with this crap-storm is something I’ve decided to call: “Pop-Shot” blogs. These will be short sharp cracks if the whip; kind of like a Facebook comment. So here I’m am launching my first “Pop-Shot” blog out into the internet!

It’s only happened twice so far since President Trump (I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to writing or saying phrase) took office but clearly the media and some others are soooooo desperate for a sign of competence that they’ll take any little scrap they can get. When Trump delivered his first decidedly mediocre (and slightly less embarrassing than usual) public address to Congress some declared that he’d suddenly become… presidential! That lasted what? Two days?

Now Trump has regained presidential momentum again (We’re told) by launching an airstrike on a Syrian Airbase. We’re going to teach Assad a lesson about gassing his own people! Thank God! Well, maybe not so much.

To begin with, on Monday of this week Trump didn’t have any particular problem with Assad. That’s interesting because Assad is the same guy he’s been for decades, and he’s the same guy that launched a gas attack on his own people in 2013. The thing about National Security and international policy is that competent leadership is not about reacting to events after the fact. We can debate whether or not removing Assad is a reasonable US policy objective, but Assad’s nature as the Syrian president and as criminal against humanity was long ago revealed and established. Assad’s most recent war crime against his own people and other civilians is just the latest in a long list. The fact that Trump needed a horrific gas attack to change his mind about Assad is NOT a sign of presidential maturity. On the contrary, a competent president would have entered the White House fully aware of the threat Assad poses in the region to begin with. Trump received several intelligence briefs regarding Syria shortly after taking the oath of office, I’m sure President Obama discussed Syria and Assad when he met with Trump. Yet, until last Tuesday Trump didn’t recognize the crises in Syria?  

When Trump begins the week thinking everything is hunky dory in Syria only to find to his surprise that there’s a brutal war going on there two days later; that does NOT bode well for US security. What other threats have yet to make it onto Trumps radar screen? Why applaud Trumps ability to change his mind when his mind shouldn’t have needed changing in the first place?  

Furthermore, this “attack” has all the hallmarks of a smoke and mirror campaign. The Russians were warned in advance, which means Assad was warned in advance, and the Pentagon admits that pains were taken to avoid inflicting serious casualties. Minimal damage was inflicted and the airfield was up and running again in a matter of hours. Not to be “Mr. Conspiracy” or anything but I note that not only is faux outrage a standard wrench in every nations tool box, it’s also the cheapest tool the box. The dominant analysis right now is that the Russians are embarrassed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the military strike they were powerless to prevent. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the attack has driven a wedge between Trump and Putin.  

Unfortunately one doesn’t need a very active imagination to notice that the constant stream of leaks regarding Trump’s probable ties to Russian intelligence. Every attempt Trump and his “team” have made thus far to nudge the Russian connection out of the headlines has failed. A relatively harmless military strike followed by a cacophony of faux outrage all around might just create the appearance of a split with Russia at an opportune time. The dominant analysis in our media is that Russia and Putin are embarrassed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons and their inability to block a US military strike. That analysis assumes that the guys who shoot down airliners over the Crimea and send Troops into Kosovo without name tags so they can deny sending troop into Kosovo… worry about western public opinion.  If you assume that Putin doesn’t care about Syrian civilian casualties, or whether or not Assad attacks his own people, this little air raid starts to look a lot less humiliating for the Russians. The raid may actually increase Russia’s leverage over its allies by justifying an increased Russian military presence. If the raid succeeds in nudging Trumps campaign ties with the Russians out of the headlines and convinces the media that Trump is finally acting like a real president… it ends up being a “win-win” for Putin and Trump without actually doing anything to safeguard Syrian Civilians. Remember…. Those were same civilians Trumps was calling potential terrorist the day before the gas attack… you know, blocking them from entering the United States. In the end it looks like we still have a president with no coherent concept of national security.    


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