Friday, April 7, 2017

A New Cake for His Excellency

It is literally impossible to consume the avalanche of news and maintain in the forefront the obvious fact that the Trump Administration is lying, always and all the time. By the time one dossier of lies is deconstructed, three more have appeared in the in-box. Who pushed Mr. Johnson down the steps? Will the Masters even end, this year, with a winner?

I supposed I can believe that Mr. Trump was actually affected by the film of dying small children, struggling to breathe. It was affecting, real, horrible. It's said that Mr. Trump gets all his information from the teevee. Possibly he DVRs everything first. That way he would miss the frequent ads asking for help, so that starving children in South Sudan will not die horrible deaths. Perhaps this is why he didn't bother to veto the idea of ending foreign aid, or, for that matter, starving the State Department and installing a character as it's titular head whose only qualifications are from Casting Central. Tillerson looks more "presidential" than Trump, or Rick Perry.

So the missiles fly last night. Fantastic video. There was a lot of interesting speculation about what Russia would do. A few people even speculated about how killing a few Russian soldiers would likely aid Trump's case against the charge that he allowed Russia to influence his election in his favor last fall. Now he can say, "See, Putin doesn't like me so much."

There is at this moment no clear answer to the question, Who is in charge of American foreign policy? It is inconceivable that Trump is "in charge." Like George W. Bush before him, what Mr. Trump is is the "decider." He has that role. But someone must be saying to him, "decide this." Bannon? Jared? Mattis and McMaster? It can't be Tillerson. Maybe it's Sebastian Gorka and the callow Mr. Miller? I'd put my money on Bannon, if only because he bragged a year before the election that he owned Mr. Trump.

This morning it is reported that the 59 missiles fired at the airbase in Syria did not damage the runways, or hit the supposed nerve gas dumps. A few aircraft were destroyed. No one was killed. So it was reported. $60 million worth of fireworks and it ain't even the 4th of July. Possibly the President of China, who was sitting on the front porch watching the show, julep in hand no doubt, took some lesson. Perhaps the lesson was, be afraid, because we know how to operate the machine.

I read around some blogs every morning, including one called the Booman Tribune. Here's what a commenter who's handle is Tarheel Dem said. (This proves possibly that the wife and I are not the only living Tarheel Democrats.)

Most commentary outside the war-drumming Wall Street media are reporting that the gas attack was a jihadi false flag to draw US intervention, a jihadi goal since the beginning of the war to topple Assad.

The situation in theater is that DAESH/ISIS/ISIL is not yet eliminated and has taken up positions in Idlib province. Turkey's strategy relative to the Kurds has slowed that operation in the east -- Mosul and Raqqa. And there is another meeting coming up in Brussels to talk about the future of Syria. Tell me how it makes sense for Assad to use chemical weapons and from where he got them in the midst of war.

From the US strategic perspective, turning Assad into a second front in the region is a distraction from the stated goal of destroying DAESH/ISIS/ISIL.

There are, I think, multiple personal and institutional motives going on. Trump personally (the only way he himself thinks) wants to present a drama to Xi Jinping before talking about North Korea--a drama of toughness and brutality.

The military and some of the national security strategic community want to finally get their wish to topple Assad by overwhelming force that allows a two-front war in the region.

No doubt there are some in the military who want to see what Russian S-300 and other air defense missiles can do to a massive cruise missile strike and by announcing the attack tried to force a close to in-real-combat test. The question we should start asking is "For what future purpose?"

Trump might not have the understanding, but the staff he has assembled does have some understanding of strategy, are eager to try the ideas they believe have been sidelined for a decade, and see themselves as not risk-averse.

The nationalists in his inner circle are extreme unilateralists.

There is enough method in this madness to wonder where US policy is going and to think that it might be in a very dangerous direction.

Will a massive preannounced or surprise strike to end North Korea's strategic missile warfare capabilities in the same style that Israel carried out Operation Opera on Iraq in the offing? Is that the implicit message to Xi Jinping or is that going to be the reality before the Chinese leader leaves Mar-a-Lago? And what will be the consequences of that?

Or the future direction of sizing up the air defense capabilities of essentially Chinese designed air defense as modified by the North Koreans?

Notice that these are all short of the worst case scenario that the US military capabilities are capable of -- on paper.

Reports say that 59 missiles struck the airfield. Like the math with the 19 9/11 hijackers, that prompts asking what happened to the 60th cruise missile? Did Syrian or Russian air defense in Syria or Tartus bring it down? Was there a malfunction? Or did the US just launch a peculiar number of cruise missiles?

The President doesn't grasp what he's done here, but McMaster, Mattis, and others in the inner circle do. Which is more dangerous?

It's very sad that this level of incredulity seemed last night to be entirely lacking in the news coverage. These are not cynical questions to raise for an Administration that lies constantly, and exhibits every hour more guilty behavior concerning all questions of Russian collaboration in their election. There is no clear American foreign policy at the moment, and today talks on North Korea are allegedly occurring down there at the Club.

The only thing better, for the theatre, would have been to move the whole meet up to Augusta, and let the big tourney happen between news reports. Feherty could offer insightful remarks on both the Chinese President and Mr. Trump's natty outfits. Dustin Johnson could then sit in his tent, like Achilles, weeping into his shield. And a Trojan Horse* could graze on the pretty grass at the Amen Corner.


*Mr. Trump has his own Trojan Horse metaphor, the children themselves. He said this last October:

If [Hillary Clinton] did nothing, we'd be in much better shape. And this [apparently the fact that Clinton failed to do nothing after she left the Obama administration?] is what has caused the great migration where she has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees [2,290 from 2011 through 2015 and then, following the death of Alan Kurdi, 12,587 in 2016; Clinton left the State Department in 2012] who probably in many cases, not probably, who are definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned [no evidence has connected any Syrian refugee in the US to ISIS*]. And we now have them in our country and wait until you see this is going to be the great Trojan Horse. And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary. Thanks a lot for doing a great job.

It's a hoary metaphor now, older than the historical Jesus, buried at the bottom of the Aegean Sea with the Greek war fleet, and a remarkable proof that Trump has actually read something. Cliff Notes strikes again. The bracketed bits in the Trump quote come from

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