In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s war crime against Syria, two crucial questions have emerged and there is not yet a definitive answer to either. Still, it is necessary to explore the possibilities.
1. There is more to come: Bush/Obama 2.0
Trump’s missile attack on Sharyat may be the first of things to come. Rex Tillerson may have indeed subtly alluded to this when he told reporters prior to the attack that “…steps are underway” to prepare for regime change in Syria.
This would almost certainly mean full on air and possibly also ground war in a style reminiscent either to America’s 2003 war on Iraq or the 2011 NATO war on Libya.
The major difference between Syria now and Iraq and Libya then is that a nuclear superpower, Russia has air-craft, missile defence systems and troops in Syria. Iraq and Libya by contrast were materially isolated from potential and actual allies.
Russia is responding in a predictable way. Russia is not going to attack forces of the United States in a deliberate retaliation, but nor is Russia going to abandon Syria. Instead they will increase their presence in Syria in respect of both men and military hardware. As The Duran’s Alexander Mercouris explains, such moves were all ready underway and this will of course only strengthen the resolve for Russia to stay the course.
This will perhaps make America think twice before going full ‘shock and awe’ in Syria, but because of the tense geo-political atmosphere what was once a certainty is now a mere probability and now as strong a probability as many would like.
Even if Trump and the Pentagon wanted to press the pause button, mission creep could dictate otherwise and move events beyond the initial intentions of the deep state.
This would of course be the worst case scenario. Even though Russia is averse to escalating geo-political conflicts, all countries have their threshold of tolerance. The fact that Russia’s threshold is set very high, would at a certain stage become inconsequential if America is hell bent on war between super-powers, which some in Washington appear to be.
2. Isolated Illegal Bravado: Reagan Redux
On 15 April 1986, American jets bombed Libya in a reprisal for the West Berlin discotheque bombings earlier that month for which Libya was blamed, in spite of no trials over the matter taking place until 1996.
America’s air attack on Libya killed approximately 75 people including civilians.
Libya claimed a moral victory however, because in spite of the deaths and damage to Libyan military hardware, including 14 MiG-23 aircraft, Gaddafi had survived the attack. It was received wisdom both in Libya and in much of the western press, that Gaddafi was the target of the strikes.
Gaddafi’s bombed out house in Bab al-Aziziya became a monument to Libyan resistance to American aggression.
The monument became the site of Gaddafi’s final public speech before his execution at the hands of NATO backed insurgents.
Unlike George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan didn’t dig in. He bombed and left. He didn’t kill his nemesis Gaddafi, but he still got to go in front of the television cameras and present himself as a war leader in the eyes of the US public.
Although Trump’s ‘face the nation as a war leader’ moment was decidedly less self-assured than Reagan’s polished Hollywood style presentation, it may have served a similar purpose. If anything this could indicate that Trump didn’t have his heart in the illegal attack on Syria the way Reagan apparently did in respect of Libya.
What’s more is that, the strike was materially ineffective.
A war crime is a war crime in any case, but the fact is that this was an inefficient and broadly materially ineffective war crime. Whether this was by mistake or by design will only be known in the future.
Fewer and fewer people are buying the lie that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. Even the stridently anti-Assad Israeli press are careful to refer to the attack as ‘alleged’ while the European and American mainstream press speak with certainty, in spite of the absence of any investigation and clear logical and empirical evidence which points to the contrary.
Perhaps the rush to attack was motivated by the fact that the justification for striking Syria was so flimsy that the powers that be did not want to give the public, let alone the more sceptical members of Congress, time to catch up with the facts?
Whether or not Trump continues to attack Syria, the fact remains that he achieved many if not most of domestic goals.
–Russiagate will certainly fade into the background as Trump has attacked a Russian partner fighting a war beside Russia forces. He can’t be accused of being a ‘Putin agent’ now.
–Trump has placated the pro-war deep state.
–Trump has placated European NATO members who want America to lead the war charge.
–The mainstream media have suddenly gone from enemy to friend.
Whether this is enough for Trump or not depends on how much more the deep state wants.
Almost as crucially, it will depend on Trump’s personal, Machiavellian definition of that infamous phrase, ‘Mission Accomplished’.