While President Trump’s decision to bomb a military airfield in Syria is being debated both by those who support it and those who think it was a mistake, an analysis by conservative author Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine draws a broader conclusion that in the long run is even more frightening about what we can expect from this administration.
In what he has dubbed the “Trump Doctrine,” Sullivan says it shows that, “Unpredictability and incoherence seem to be the mark of America’s foreign policy now.”
Only one week after Trump had his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declare that Syria’s people should decide who is in charge, sending the message the U.S. would no longer try to unseat the vicious Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the President launched a limited attack on a Syrian military target.
“It represents a complete U-turn from Trump’s previous position that Obama should never have intervened in Syria at all – a position he believed in so strongly, he tweeted endlessly about it at the time,” writes Sullivan.
“The attack risks our becoming more involved in a Middle Eastern civil war – another position Trump constantly derided for years and in the campaign,” adds Sullivan.
He also notes that it “will disrupt” Trump’s attempt for a rapprochement with Russia, which he calls, “another turn on an emotional dime.”
Trump claims he did it because he was “so affected” after seeing images on TV of Syrian children who had been gassed, but he has refused to admit those same children and their parents to the U.S. for their safety and smeared them as terrorists.
In addition, Trump didn’t hesitate to rapidly escalate U.S. involvement in the Yemeni civil war between Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda groups, and a Saudi-led coalition. Sullivan notes that he didn’t have anything to say after he launched a military raid that killed thirty civilians, including ten children.
Throughout his campaign, Trump said he had a plan to defeat ISIS, who he portrayed as our biggest enemy in the Middle East. He was willing to work with Russia and Syria to go after ISIS. Now he has turned on his own choice of allies.
It also reverses Trump’s position about staying out of the Middle East quagmire, says Sullivan: “The candidate who promised to avoid military conflict in the Middle East has reversed himself and become an interventionist — if only from a safe distance.”
His sudden reversals and unpredictability have upset his close allies on the alt-right, who take the libertarian view that the U.S. should not start a war in the Middle East, and many in Congress who view his military action as a violation of the Constitution, which requires Congressional approval before going to war.
In this case, Trump didn’t confer with Congress or provide them much warning, even as he was warning Russia of the impending attack (and Russia then quickly warned Syria which had time to remove key personnel and weaponry).
Nor did Trump do what the Pentagon had wanted to do in the past, and what Obama considered, which was to strike against the entire Syrian Air Force and decimate their capability in a meaningful way.
Instead, he spanked Assad for the gas attack and left him as mad a hornet after someone pokes a stick in a hive, but still fully capable of retaliation, as the dictator demonstrated this morning when he dropped chlorine gas bombs on a suburb in Damascus.
So what to make of all this? Did Trump do it because being a war president would be a way to rally people at a time which sees his domestic agenda on health care in a shambles, his shutdown of the environmental efforts unpopular, and his pandering to coal miners, Wall Street, and big business becoming a thorny problem?
Sullivan says it is just Trump being unpredictable as usual: “Coherence was never Trump’s strong point, as we have discovered with his support for a health-care bill that would have thrown 24 million people off health insurance after he had explicitly promised to cover everyone. And he believes in surprise. The missile launch is also not about attacking ISIS. It actually attacks one of ISIS’s direst foes.”
If the new Trump Doctrine is indeed, to be unpredictable and incoherent in making and administering policy and the laws, then there are a lot more dark days ahead for Americans and for the world.
We already know Trump can’t be trusted. Now we have to worry that his distrustful actions will occur in even more unexpected and terrible ways.