Reflections on the Syria Strike
"The night is dark and full of terrors, but the fire burns them all away." ~ Melissandre
Not a day after I wrote my lengthy article in defense of Trump, trying to reveal to his critics what I saw and why I felt so optimistic about him ... Not a day went by when I had my faith tested in a most profound way. Yesterday, Donald Trump ordered a second missile strike against Syria, this time joined by France and Britain. That same visceral fear I experienced last year suddenly re-emerged. The same chill moment washed over me, as it had during the first strike.
It shook me to my core, threatening to undo all the work I'd done in trying to convince others that Trump was a Master Persuader who knew what he was doing. The man with the plan. Not only was I be made a fool of and a laughing stock; but if this went badly, it meant that people could die from another bullshit war in the Middle East and I would be partly responsible for it by supporting Donald Trump.
Obviously, I didn't want that.
Even the soothing mystical incantations of Scott Adams weren't enough to calm me down this time.
Not this time.
My mind immediately flashed back to Iraq and Libya. I thought of that one video of Gaddafi standing before the leaders of the Arab League nations, making a speech about how the U.S. had taken out Saddam after putting him in place. Gaddafi then predicted his own demise in much the same way while warning the rest of the Arab world, who all laughed at him. The camera even cut to a smug-looking Assad, as though he were destined to be next, but he just couldn't believe it.
Is that speech not proof we live in a simulation?
Last night, I tweeted out a link to an article by the Washington Post that I'd read in some haste, just to try and get an initial sense of what was going on in Syria.
I learned that the United States wasn't the only one to launch missiles. The UK and France had joined in, which made me feel a little better, knowing Trump wasn't just unilaterally making this decision. That Theresa May was no Tony Blaire. She barely had the spine to move on Brexit, let alone a foreign war, and Macron was much the same in that regard - too much of a cuck to protect his own borders, let alone start a war - though later I noted it was small comfort since the Iraq War and Libyan War were also multinational coalitions.
Mattis told us that there were only three targets hit, all of which he claimed to be related to the production of chemical weapons. As I write this, there were no civilian casualties as collateral damage, so far as I know. That all sounded like a good thing, right?
It was the same strategy Trump had used a year ago to send a message to the world that Syria had crossed a red line; and unlike Obama, he was going to follow through on his promise of retaliation for it.
Trump blamed Assad for the attacks, which if that happened, the humanist in me could see retaliation as being justified in that case. There was just one problem. I haven't seen any evidence of that, and I began to worry this was yet another "WMDs in Iraq" situation wherein we were being led astray by false intel reports as part of a psychotic neocon plot.
Just something they could get off to, lobbing their giant dicks around, as George Carlin put it.
Given Trump's promises not to engage in nation building, given the unique financial freedom he has that would make him more beholden to the people than corporate masters, given his track record of success, and given the fact that the media-political complex really has it out for him, I was initially willing to give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt. To trust that he had the evidence in hand but couldn't release it, but had our best interests at heart.
It didn't take long before I started to wonder how all the other pundits and commentators I respected might respond to this with condemnation. Austin Peterson outright called it unconstitutional, and I like him and trust him. As of writing this, I haven't heard Rand Paul or Ben Shapiro say anything about it one way or the other which I'd have expect them to if it was really bad. Trump claimed to be invoking Article II powers to protect vital national interests, but what vital interests were there in Syria?
Besides our own troops that we put in harms way, that is.
Human rights weren't enough or we'd be able to do more work in places like Palestine, Venezuela, South Africa, or even at home. Just a week before, Trump had talked about wanting to get out of Syria, and more recently still, to get out of Afghanistan.
The story of Assad gassing innocent people, although possible, seemed highly unlikely.
Far more likely that it was the rebels or ISIL or the Mossad / CIA as part of a New World Order false flag attack designed to drag us into war, much like we've seen in the past. Russia blamed Britain, which after the Chris Steele affair seems oddly plausible.
The WaPo article cited the Trump admin as saying these attacks would only escalate if Assad did.
All that sounded reasonable, and I found myself, rather horrifyingly quickly, starting to justify going to war against Assad. This clashed with my libertarian nationalist principles and I soon began to wonder if I would have let this sort of behavior fly under Bush or Obama.
The answer is: no, I would not.
I began to rationalize all the ways in which Trump was different, more trustworthy, more likely to follow through on his promises not to engage in outright regime change or war; yet even then, it would set a dangerous precedent that one of his successors might exploit while being less than a person of sound moral character. Now my libertarian side really began to flare up.
As the night wore on, my mind hearkened back to Thomas Jefferson - the closest thing we ever had to a total anarchist president. I thought about his less-than-Constitutional use of the navy to go after the barbary pirates, even authorizing something of a ground invasion. I thought about how, despite the ire and scorn he received in his own day, how we refer him as one of the greatest presidents of all time and certainly the most libertarian. Jefferson's argument for why he did what he did was that it was better to do good, even when the law stood in the way.
It was a stretch, but something I could conceivably tolerate morally, even if I didn't like the slippery slope that would surely follow from it.
"The night is darkest just before dawn." ~ Proverb
By the morning, I had watched Jack Prosobiec's speech to the MAGA movement and that gave me a bit of comfort, knowing others were just as confused, but that it wasn't all doom and gloom. He hit on the key point I think we all felt, which was that we needed to hear from Trump and to see clear evidence of these attacks in order to feel comfortable following him down that path.
But as Scott has pointed out in the last few days, we might not necessarily be going down that path. It could just be a one-and-done to send a message and scare our enemies, much like I had suggested in my previous post.
Then I watched Trump's speech and finally felt at peace:
Watching that speech and hearing the words from his own mouth put me at ease at last, because I could see what he was doing, even if others couldn't.
He had touted this as "Mission Accomplished," and again I thought back to Bush in Iraq with the banner, but this was different. This really was mission accomplished, because unlike then, the mission wasn't invasion - and he made that crystal clear. The real mission was to send a message to Putin, Assad, and Iran that their current behavior was unacceptable. He paced their tone and was now leading them to a better place by dialing back the aggression. This was a warning shot, to demonstrate that Trump was willing to do whatever was necessary to stop the forces of evil, but that he preferred not to - a message he sent to the world at the UN, a message he tweeted to North Korea, to China, and to many others. That has always been his message and it seems he's sticking to it.
In his speech, Trump said in no uncertain terms that we did not want perpetual invasion, but that was on the table if our enemies didn't change their behavior. In contrast - because contrast is important - he said he would rather we get along and be friends.
I mentioned this in my last article as well, before the strikes, that he's just barking louder than anyone else in trying to establish himself as the alpha dog.
Think about it. A small, controlled strike on targets that may or may not have had chemical weapons in which basically no one was killed and Russia didn't try to stop ... is that really something to get upset about? If they did have chemical weapons, I'd argue getting rid of them was ultimately a good thing. It's hard to lose sleep over that. It's what follows that kept me awake at night worrying, but Trump has thus far proven to be a capable leader and a man of his word on the things that really matter, and so I trust him and believe him when he says we don't want long-term war.
His recent signaling of drawing down in Syria and Afghanistan coupled with his consistent position of being against foreign invasions in the past lend credibility to that intention.
This is just more of the same theatre as before.
There will not be war.
"Things which are tolerated on account of necessity ought not to be drawn into precedents." ~ Legal Maxim
EDIT - Another day has passed and I feel a lot better about the situation overall. Styx clearly condemned the act of aggression, but could see the larger picture and came to the same conclusion I did about Russia. My feelings are largely the same. That if there was no gassing, this is clearly bad. That if civilians got killed, that's clearly bad too, and I would have rather this been done another way but it wasn't. In either event, Trump got Russia to blink and undid the damage done to the U.S.'s street cred that was caused by Obama's failure to enforce his own red line.
However, so far, that isn't in evidence yet of civilian casualties and there's still no invasion.
Whether there will be or not depends in large part on what Assad does going forward, but as for the gassing itself, I'm more convinced that Assad actually did have chemical weapons and most likely used them. Part of that comes from listening to a few speakers, but also largely by listening to the Syrian ambassador hang himself on his own words:
(EDIT - I'm using Scott's video for this, because the one I originally posted no longer works.)
I don't think that's enough to justify an invasion, but a targeted strike on relevant facilities could certainly be within bounds.
There's still the sticking point of Constitutional authority and precedence that makes me feel rather uneasy. My feeling is that this may be an instance where, tactically, going through Congress might have lost us the opportunity if Assad was able to move his weapons by the time a vote could be taken on the matter. There's a reason we put the President in charge of the actual military operations, to deal with exigencies like this.
So for me, it remains a moral and legal grey area with lots of questions. Trump's demonstration of self-restraint and shrinking of the government thus far leads me to wanna give him the benefit of the doubt but I just pray he doesn't make a habit of this.
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