In decades to come historians will identify this past week as one of the most seminal in post war history, placing particular emphasis when they do on the actions of one of the most unstable, unpredictable and capricious presidents ever to occupy the White House.
Those who, prior to Trump’s election, allowed themselves to believe his lack of political experience and ideologically-driven worldview were strengths that would go a long way to giving birth to the multipolar world that is long overdue, those people have reason to be nursing a sense of crushing disappointment over the political disaster that is currently unfolding, one that may well translate into a military disaster if allowed to continue on its current trajectory.
Indeed, it is hard at this stage to avoid the feeling that Trump and his administration are actually itching for military confrontation with Russia. Like a child discovering matches for the first time, the 45th president appears a leader who after ordering a missile strike for the first time can’t wait to order more.
It is a feeling reinforced by the meeting between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, which sadly was not the success a planet desperate for peace and stability was hoping for. Despite the cordial tone and atmosphere surrounding the talks, they ended with no resolution and no serious moves towards de-escalation.
The Trump administration continues to assert that its intelligence leaves no room for doubt when it comes to the allegation that President Assad authorized a sarin gas attack on civilians in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province. The Syrian leader denies the allegation, and Russia supports this denial, while calling for an independent UN-led investigation in order to ascertain the facts. Washington has so far refused to countenance such an investigation, while at the same time failing to produce the intelligence or evidence it claims to possess in support of its allegations.
Even without factoring in the cooked-up and falsified intelligence that was used to unleash hell on Iraq in 2003, a conflict the after effects of which lie at the root of the current crisis – and even without factoring in the destruction of Libya in 2011, driven by the same regime change fanaticism – the stance of the Trump administration is both unconscionable and contemptuous in its arrogance. It begs the question of what the US Government is afraid of when it comes to an independent investigation? And why the refusal to reveal its evidence and the intelligence that points to Syrian government responsibility for this alleged attack?
The most optimistic analysis we can make at this point is that Trump believes he can wheel and deal in the political arena as he has throughout his years in the business arena. But the consequences of having his bluff called in the game he’s playing now, as opposed to the game he cut his teeth in, are of an entirely different dimension. The game his administration is playing now carries with it the strong possibility of unleashing catastrophic consequences.
The growing number of voices within the US that are questioning the conclusions being peddled by the White House over this alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack have thus far been dismissed as the product of conspiracy theory and pro-Assad propaganda. However the latest intervention by MIT professor Theodore Postol cannot be so easily ignored. Professor Postol, whose exhaustive rebuttal of the case against the Syrian government over the alleged sarin attack of 2013 should be required reading for anyone interested in drawing fact-based conclusions rather than those rooted in ideology, has raised his voice again, this time challenging the intelligence behind these allegations and the intelligence used to support them.
Despite the lack of UN authorization or congressional approval for the airstrike launched by Trump against Syria, the mainstream media in the US, almost to a newspaper and network, has lined up behind their President with their by now customary Pavlovian cheerleading for war and regime change. Their ranks have been swelled by what can best be described as a left wing of US imperialism in the form of a hodgepodge of soi disant socialists and progressives, whose metamorphosis into the most passionate of regime change fanatics and cranks has been stunning to behold.
Moscow, nobody should need reminding, will not accept its implied status of Carthage to Washington’s Rome, with the cards Trump has dealt Russia this past week those of a leader who has made the mistake of allowing himself become dizzy with the questionable success of one limited military action.
Yet, regardless, overnight this missile strike has transported Trump from bête noire of the neocon establishment to its man of the hour. This is in spite of the fact that the incoherence and mixed messages that have ensued during the course of this crisis from Trump’s aforementioned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UN envoy Nikki Haley, and woefully under qualified press secretary Sean Spicer, reveals a level of dysfunction commonly associated with satire rather than the serious business of government. The result is that Washington is currently a lumbering giant staggering blindly towards the edge of a cliff with no sign of stopping.
This is why it is such a pity that we have in the White House a President who takes pride in never reading books. For if he did, and if he took the time to dip into the works of Napoleon Bonaparte, he might learn something. For instance: “International incidents must not be allowed to shape foreign policy, foreign policy must shape the incidents.”
Napoleon, it should be borne in mind, was a leader who also made the fatal mistake of allowing hubris to cloud his judgement.