So, there we go. Just one month after having covered Yemen with air strikes that killed more than 35 civilians, among them at least 12 children (not the first to kill civilians in Yemen, by the way), the oh-so sensitive President Agent Orange gets all worked up over pictures of dying Syrian babies and decides ‘to do something’. In America speak ‘to do something’ means bombing a preferably Muslim country from a safe position and giving sentimental speeches which necessarily contain the words ‘freedom’, ‘American values’ and ‘God bless America’. There is nothing really astonishing or new here. Making America Great Again traditionally involves bombing a poor and colored nation to sh**. And it traditionally works. Like Pavlov’s dog, Americans across the spectrum jump unthinkingly into ‘patriotic’ mode as soon as missile fireworks glitter on CNN (or Fox) and the ‘OUR NAVY’ sign lightens up. Never mind all those beautiful babies that die from American bombs and drones; America is defending freedom in the world. Ta! Take this!
What is different this time is that this bombing seems to be entirely due to the capricious and extravagant TV binge watching of an entirely unhinged president. There has been absolutely no recognizable logic in any foreign policy decisions of this administration; the Secretary of State What’s-His-Name shines through his absence; the UN ambassador to the UN is still grappling with understanding basic UN procedures; the National Security Council just got reshuffled hours before the strikes; and whatever any of those who should be in the know have said in the days before the strike pointed in a completely different direction. Like with everything else, T seems to have acted on a whim, without any plan whatsoever and without consulting with anyone competent and knowledgeable.
The incompetence of this administration is out of doubt. But this incompetence is not a fault in the design of this administration but the design itself. If we look for any logic in his foreign policy, we fall foul to a fundamental mistake, namely to believe that any decision of this President is about the policy matter at stake. Puzzling about the motives of the air strikes and its possible effects and potential ‘after’-politics is all assuming that the air strikes are, indeed, about Syria, Assad or chemical weapons. But they are not.
There is only one constant in all policy decision of the T administration, whether on health care or Syria, and that is he and himself. If we want to understand the rational of any decision we simply need to ask what benefits T himself garners from it. Forget the ‘beautiful babies’.
First benefit: approval ratings. As said bombing a foreign country always works and if there are little babies, hunger-bloated children or victim women to save all the better. T’s approval ratings were the lowest of any president at any time since these are polled. They are certainly much better since yesterday (see Pavlov’s effect above). The rally-around-the-flag effect will also benefit his daughter and son-in-law whose involvement in foreign policy decisions has come under hefty criticism recently.
Second benefit: Did you notice, too, that there was some, uhm, let’s call it dissatisfaction among Republicans with T’s politics recently? Well, that’s done for. No Republican who doesn’t love a good military campaign! And then to save ‘beautiful babies’! How lovely!
Third benefit: Let’s stay a moment with the Republicans. They just changed rules to the Senate which are pretty fundamental for the good functioning of checks-and-balances of American democratic institutions. But, yeah, somehow that vote to change the rules got a bit lost with all this cruise missile hype….
Fourth benefit: whatever there is as Russia connection, it is getting hotter and hotter for T. Now that Republican Devin Nunes has stepped down as chair, the Russia investigation of the House intelligence committee will get seriously going. What a better way of showing that T is not a Russian puppet than bombing some of their military advisors in Syria? With proper warning of course because, hey, we don’t really want to kill them, just ‘sending a message’…
Fifth benefit: remember who T was dining with when the air strikes took place? Yeah, right! The Chinese president! The same one who is overseeing the construction of air bases in the South China Sea which are by now almost completed; the same one who is supposed to calm down a hyperactive North Korea. How handy it must have come to give Xi Jinping a real-time demonstration of the US’s military prowess. Tomahawk missiles which were used in the Syria air strike, are short-range missiles just like the ones that would be likely to be used in the South China Sea as they do not require pilots (and fixed air bases) and can be used as sea-to-sea weapons; they are flexible in the bombs they are carrying and, hence, can be equipped to destroy ‘soft infrastructure’ (such as planes but not runways). And wouldn’t it be nice if this flexing of muscles would quite simply impress Xi so much that he’d happily agree to make Walmart not buy cheap goods in China anymore? And to bring back those plastic toy factories to the Apalachias. Oh wait, that’s nothing Xi or T can actually do coz you know that are private companies…well, whatever, at least T has shown those pesky Chinese who the boss is in the world!
Sixth benefit: remember that T said that NATO is obsolete? Remember that T said that they will slash funds to UN peacekeeping (and humanitarian aid, and development aid)? And some dared to say that this was not a good idea? Well, the air strikes just proved again how little the US have to care about multi-lateral agreements, international organizations or, simply, international law. In case you though he was just a bit tired when he didn’t think it necessary or polite to shake Angela Merkel’s hand.
The air strikes make absolutely no sense other than being a public relations strategy of someone who sincerely believes that life is nothing else than a TV reality show about him and himself The administration says itself that they just wanted to send out a message. And so they did, not to Assad or, beware, the Syrian population who are still banned for taking refuge in the USA. But to others, many others, those who are useful to T’s very narrow, very personal, very narcissistic view of himself. It is as cynical and simple as that. And yeah, it is f*** dangerous; not everyone likes playing T show…