Good morning, America:
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
Our extremely status-conscious president has learned what it takes to get back into the good graces of the DC establishment: bomb somebody. Even hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Trump’s most strident critics for a long time, now says Trump has Reaganesque instincts. Here’s a must-read column by Damon Linker on DC’s war madness. Excerpt:
The past week has been an immensely clarifying — and profoundly demoralizing — one in American politics. It has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the country’s foreign policy establishment, along with its leading center-right and center-left politicians and pundits, are hopelessly, perhaps irredeemably, deluded about the role of the United States in the world.
From the start of the 2016 Republican primaries on down through Donald Trump’s surprise electoral college victory, the transition, and the opening months of his administration, members of this foreign policy establishment and these leading politicians and pundits have been united in expressing dismay and alarm about Trump’s lack of temperamental and intellectual fitness to serve as commander-in-chief. Yet the moment Trump gave the order to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase used in a chemical weapons attack a few days earlier, all was forgotten and forgiven. Finally Trump became president! Finally he put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his place! Finally the U.S. showed it had moved beyond former President Barack Obama’s reluctance to use military force!
It’s hard to know where to begin in formulating a response to this outpouring of delight at the thought of Trump giving the order to launch a barrage of deadly weapons at a sovereign nation over 5,000 miles from American shores. But let’s start with absolute basics: Launching even one missile at another country is not, as we euphemistically like to presume, a “military action,” a “military operation,” or even a “humanitarian intervention.” It is an act of war. Full stop. That many countries in the world, including Syria, are far too weak to consider launching a retaliatory counter-attack against the United States for such a bombardment is utterly irrelevant. How would a more powerful country — China, for example — respond if we fired even one cruise missile at its territory? How, for that matter, would we respond if China fired just one at us?
Every country in the world thinks well of itself. But we’re the only country in the world that expects every other country to defer to our self-evident wonderfulness — apparently even when Trump is launching the missiles.
Read the whole thing. Linker’s discussion of an alternative history of the US Civil War, involving a powerful overseas nation who involved itself militarily in that conflict, is a useful exercise.
A new CBS News poll shows that a strong majority (57 percent) of Americans support the Syrian air strikes, though most Americans don’t think the US should become more involved militarily in Syria. I suppose one should be grateful for small things, but it seems like it wouldn’t be all that difficult to whip the American people up into a frenzy for more war. About half the people polled (48 percent) want more US military involvement, either troops on the ground (18 percent) or airstrikes alone (30 percent). Only 41 percent say they favor either diplomacy exclusively, or no involvement at all. (Presumably the other 11 percent had no opinion).
Are we really a nation of polemophiles? Do we love war so much that we are ready to rejoin the fray in Syria? Because now that we’ve hit the Syrians, we invite them or their allies to hit us back. This is on us.
We have no vital national interest in Syria’s civil war. It is those doing the fighting who have causes they deem worth dying for.
For ISIS, it is the dream of a caliphate. For al-Qaeda, it is about driving the Crusaders out of the Dar al Islam. For the Turks, it is, as always, about the Kurds.
For Assad, this war is about his survival and that of his regime. For Putin, it is about Russia remaining a great power and not losing its last naval base in the Med. For Iran, this is about preserving a land bridge to its Shiite ally Hezbollah. For Hezbollah it is about not being cut off from the Shiite world and isolated in Lebanon.
Because all have vital interests in Syria, all have invested more blood in this conflict than have we. And they are not going to give up their gains or goals in Syria and yield to the Americans without a fight.
And if we go to war in Syria, what would we be fighting for?
A New World Order? Democracy? Separation of mosque and state? Diversity? Free speech for Muslim heretics? LGBT rights?
We are still fighting the war we started for no good reason back in 2003 — and we still have an appetite for fighting in that fever swamp of tribal and religious hatred? Haven’t we done enough to the Middle East?
Are you aware that President Trump has decided to conceal from the American people the numbers of US troops he’s dispatching henceforth to Syria and Iraq? So we won’t even know how more deeply the Commander-in-Chief is embedding us in another nation’s hellacious civil war.
Damon Linker is right: this is madness. We have no business in Syria. And yes, North Korea is a big, big problem, with no obvious solutions — but the one thing the US should not do is have its president talk like a cowboy on Twitter.