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5 reasons why Donald Trump’s missile strike was a massive blunder

By launching his missile strike the President has destroyed his reputation for consistency, emboldened his enemies and dismayed his friends.

Alexander Mercouris

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Following Napoleon’s murder in March 1804 of the Duc d’Enghien, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouché, said of the murder C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute” –“It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  President Trump’s missile strike on Sharyat air base in Syria was like the Duc d’Enghien’s murder, not just a crime but a blunder.

Reasons given for why President Trump ordered the missile strike differ.

President Trump himself claims it was due to his revulsion at the horror of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which he insists – but which no independent investigation has confirmed – was carried out by President Assad’s air force.

US Secretary of State Tillerson and President Trump’s National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster say the same thing, but also say the missile strike was a signal of the President’s toughness and his unwillingness to tolerate the crossing of his red lines.

Others more cynically claim it was to distract attention away from Russiagate and to secure the President’s position in Washington.

There is probably truth to all these claims.  However none of them change the fact that the missile strike was a big mistake.  Here’s why:

(1) All of the evidence suggests that the missile strike was a demonstration of force and that the President does not intend it to escalate into a campaign for regime change in Syria.

Not only was that what Tillerson and McMaster said at their joint news conference but the strike itself – with the Russians and the Syrians given hours of warning time before it happened, and with the strike itself limited in scope and carried out on a far smaller scale than the one President Obama apparently envisaged in 2013 – suggest the same thing.

That suggests that the President still does not want to become bogged down in a regime change war in Syria.

If so he will soon find that he has put himself on the slippery slope.

Just as the sacking of General Flynn emboldened the President’s critics in the Russiagate affair, causing the scandal to escalate far beyond the point it had reached before, so the missile attack on Sharyat air base has fed red meat to the regime change hardliners in Washington and elsewhere.  They will certainly come back for more, and having given them red meat once the President is now in a much weaker position to refuse them.

Moreover regardless of what exactly happened at Khan Sheikhoun, the Jihadis in Syria now know that all they have to do is stage a chemical attack and the President will oblige them by launching missiles on President Assad’s forces without an investigation and without seeking Congressional or UN Security Council approval.  That all but guarantees that staging more chemical attacks is precisely what the Jihadis will now do.

One does not have to be a prophet to see how this situation could escalate from now on, even if that is not the President’s wish, and how he is now in a much weaker position to prevent that happening.

(2) The President started his Presidency by saying he wanted to improve relations with Russia.  Not only has he instead enraged the Russians, making relations with Russia even worse than they already were, but the Russians are certain to see the missile strike as a challenge and will respond accordingly.  Already they are talking about beefing up Syria’s air defences and have closed down the hotline between their military in Syria and that of the US.

Not only will that complicate the US’s anti-ISIS operations in Syria, but it magnifies the risk of a dangerous confrontation with the Russians in Syria, which is precisely.what the President and his officials – as shown by their tip-off to the Russians before the strike – obviously want to avoid.

(3) Then there is the key issue of trust.

Within just a week, following reports of a single attack, the President has reversed course, going from a position where he appeared to be accepting the reality that President Assad will remain the leader of Syria to one where he is attacking him and where his officials are once more talking of the importance of removing him.

Not only will the Russians conclude that this President is someone who cannot be trusted, but governments around the world – including many of the US’s key European allies – will be shocked at how easy it is for this President to reverse course and to do the opposite of what he said he would do before, and do so moreover without any proper discussion or consultation, and without even pretending to observe the forms of international and domestic law.

In international relations consistency is the quality which more than any other is the one that is most prized.  Governments need to be sure that a Great Power like the US follows consistent  policies.  That way other governments can adjust their own policies to take into account those of the US.

It was for this reason, because launching the attack so completely trashed the President’s reputation for consistency in his conduct of policy, that before the missile attack I doubted it would happen.

Governments around the world – including the government of China, whose President the US has just hosted – now know that with this administration the US can reverse policy at the drop of a hat.  Not only will that worry them but they now also know that whatever this President says cannot be trusted because he can go back on it so quickly.

That will inevitably make international affairs more unstable, since governments now know that this President cannot be fully trusted, something which will make it more difficult for him to cut the deals he craves.

(4) If the President believed when he launched his missiles that it would end criticism of him and obstruction of his administration by his opponents, then he will be quickly discover that it has done no such thing.  The President’s opponents have far too much invested in the narrative of Donald Trump the new Mussolini or Caligula to back off from it now.  I doubt they will even back off from the Russiagate allegations, absurd though those are.

Within a few days, once the plaudits for the missile strikes have faded, the President will quickly find that the view of him of his opponents in Washington is the same as always, and that if anything, by launching his missile strike without first consulting Congress, he has given them another stick with which to beat him with.  I note that Nancy Pelosi – one of the President’s most vehement critics – is already calling for a full debate in the House to discuss the issue of authorisation for the President’s action.

(5) By contrast, if the President has not won over his critics, he has beyond question upset and demoralised the most intelligent and vocal part of his own political base.

One of the most interesting facts about the events of the last few days is that whilst Barack Obama’s liberal supporters continued to back him even as he went back entirely on the anti-war stance he appeared to hold before he was elected, Donald Trump’s supporters take their anti-war and anti-interventionist position extremely seriously, and are not prepared to compromise on it.  The result is that far from defending the President for what he has done, they have turned on him and feel betrayed.

Donald Trump himself senses this.  This is shown by the fact that since the missile attack, far from assuming a triumphalist tone, he has only mentioned the attack twice in tweets, one a token tweet congratulating the military for the success of the operation, the other a highly defensive tweet in which he tried to explain away the lack of damage to the runway.  Otherwise, except in formal statements such as his letter to Congress, he has avoided talking about it.

Indeed it is not impossible that the result of the missile attack – especially if it is followed by others – will be to revive a moribund anti-war movement which had all but disappeared during Obama’s Presidency.  It is easy to see how the right and left wings of this movement might now come together – as happened during the Presidency of George W. Bush – in the case of the anti-movement’s right wing because it genuinely opposes interventionist wars, in the case of the anti-war movement’s left wing because some of its members sincerely oppose interventionist wars but mainly because it hates a right wing Republican President.

Needless to say if such a thing does happen then the President’s political problems will multiply a thousand-fold.

The first law of politics – in the US as everywhere else – is to look after your own base.  All successful politicians understand this.  On Friday Donald Trump shocked and upset his base, and once the temporary afterglow of the missile strike wares off (which it quickly will) he will pay the political price.

What the events of the last week show is that almost a hundred days after his inauguration Donald Trump remains an amateur who continues to be out of his depth.  Instead of making carefully judged decisions he makes his decisions on impulse, in a hurry and on the fly.

Sometimes, in the short term, some of these decisions help him.  More often they cause him problems.  Over time, because of the ill-judged and hurried way he makes his decisions, they will make more and more problems for him.  Moreover there doesn’t seem much evidence so far of his learning from his mistakes.  The missile strike on Syria was the biggest one by far, but it is all too likely that more and worse will follow.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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