Thursday, April 13, 2017

More on Trump's motive for Syria attack

John Oliver noted that Trump got a lot of praise and admiration "for bombing someone;" and he said that we should be very very worried, because this is a man who "feeds off of praise."  (see Apr. 11 ShrinkRap post)

Paul Krugman said something equally concerning in his Tuesday New York Times column:
"Showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. . . . The [Syria] attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration.   Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president's toughness.
". . . [T]here's no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect on the course of Syria's civil war. . . .  To achieve any lasting result, Mr. Trump would have to get involved on a sustained basis in Syria. 
"Doing what, you ask?  Well, that's the big question -- and the lack of good answers to that question is the reason President Barack Obama decided not to start something nobody knew how to finish."
As to why President Trump made a different decision and what comes next, Krugman is concerned about the rapid shift from a few days before.  He writes:
"What changed?  The images of poison gas victims were horrible, but Syria has been an incredible horror story for years.  Is Mr. Trump making life-and-death national security decisions based on TV coverage? . . ."
Krugnan then chastises the media pundits for overpraising and lowering the bar of expectations for normality with this president.
"You may recall how, a month and a half ago, pundits eagerly declared that Mr. Trump "became the president of the United States today" because he managed to read a speech off a teleprompter without going off script.  Then he started tweeting again.  
"One might have expected that experience to serve as a lesson.  But no:  The U.S. fired off some missiles, and once again Mr. Trump "became president."  Aside from everything else, think about the incentives this creates.  The Trump administration now knows that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures by bombing someone."
I have to agree, despite my initial positive feeling that, at least, Trump had some emotional response to human suffering and that the operation itself had been carried out competently by his stable of generals.  But that was admittedly not a consideration of the wisdom or long-range appropriateness of the action.

The Chinese press also weighed in -- after President XI had taken his leave from his host at Mar-a-Lago.   Xinhua, the state news agency, called the strike "the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles."  They also said Trump ordered the strike to distance himself from Syria's backers in Moscow, to overcome accusations that he was "pro-Russia."

I welcome this more sober analysis of this latest action of the 45th president of the U.S.   If Donald Trump were in fact a mole for Putin, with the mission to undermine our democracy from the inside, he could claim a measure of success already.   Trump and the media coverage have so lowered our expectations of what is normal behavior for a president that it may never be the same, just as the Supreme Court may also never be the same, now that Republicans have cemented in the partisan nature of the choice by eliminating the necessity for a measure of consensus rather than a simple majority.


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