Thursday, 6 April 2017
A Convenient Red Line in Syria
75 days since he was inaugurated, you can't help wondering if the Commander in Chief doesn't want to give that part of his job a run out. After all military men and women do as they are told and there is no chance of them arguing or challenging, of taking him to court.
Much as we can all deplore what happened in Syria this week at the hands of a regime that becomes ever more vile and out of control, part of the reason that it feels free to be vile and out of control is thanks to the nearly as vile and reprehensible behaviour of Russia and Trump's some time buddy Vlad the Botoxed. Part of the reason we are all so suspicious of the Trump campaign is because he has been so accommodating of Putin's excesses and has even made excuses for it. It is possible to quietly admire Putin's cynicism and realpolitik after all without actually saying so in public. That Trump has felt the need to speak of his admiration for him and even to wave away his murders has raised eyebrows to say the least.
Trump is in trouble on Russia and it is steadily getting worse. Am I being too cynical now to argue that it would do him no harm to distract us all with some military action, especially when it is against a regime that is reviled around the world and has killed babies and children entirely indiscriminately. It will also make him look less indulgent of Russia whose client the Assad regime is.
I have already suggested that Trump may be considering action against North Korea, although to do so would be extraordinarily dangerous and risk a war that could easily get out of control and cost hundreds of thousands of lives including many Americans. Anyway this may just be a less than subtle bluff to try and get the Chinese to sort out North Korea, although the chances are that the canny Chinese will see through this as easily as the rest of us. Trump will have been advised that war in North Korea would be expensive, dangerous and wholly unpredictable. It's a risk too far and both North Korea and the Chinese know it.
Better then to take on an enemy that is incapable of striking back with a few well aimed missiles to show American power without risking much more. The Russians will probably look the other way too since they are equally as capable of reading the runes as China. Firing a few missiles at Assad will achieve nothing and will not alter the balance of power. It will just make Trump look a little more decisive and be a welcome distraction. He is not about to get involved in a wider war and is certainly not going to engage with Russia to bring down Assad. So we can reasonably conclude that this is almost certainly going to happen. Chemical weapons are supposedly a red line. But they are a convenient distraction from other worries too. They won't exactly give Trump the win he so wants, but they will at least make him feel better this morning. Oh and the Chinese president is visiting too. That's a message he will hear loud and clear even if he ignores it.