The Master Distractor Strikes
What was the point behind President Donald Trump’s recent Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian airbase in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians purportedly carried out by President Assad’s military? Was he trying to demonstrate that his foreign policy decision-making skills eclipse those of President Obama’s when he was faced with a similar situation four years ago? Given his constant berating and slandering of his predecessor, that line of thinking may very well have played a part. A follow-up question on the minds of many concerns what he plans to do next in his apparently chaotic Syria policy.
Unlike President Obama’s request for Congressional input into what action should be taken regarding the Syrian civil war, President Trump decided to launch 60 missiles, each priced at over $1 million, to teach Assad a lesson and prevent any further such violations of international law by using chemical weapons against his own citizens. Almost all of us agree that using such weapons should not be an option for anyone (though Trump prides himself on not taking any options off the table – including the use of nuclear weapons). Certainly, innocent men, women and children should not be subjected to such attacks. Nor should they be made homeless amid an endless chaotic civil war – but what has Trump’s attack done to end any of that?
Ratcheting up the already tense Syrian situation by inserting American military might in the middle of a civil war with no articulated policy or stated goals for the eventual outcome of the conflict is folly, if not even worse, especially given the dangers of escalation inherent in launching such an attack in the presence of Russian and Iranian boots on the ground in far greater numbers than we current have there. What vital American security interest has been put at risk by Assad? Such an attack also appears to run counter to Trump’s stated goal of eliminating ISIS forces in the region. Assad may be a ruthless tyrant when it comes to ruling Syria. No doubt many Syrians would be better off with him out of the picture. Millions of Syrian refugees would probably cheer his demise. But such an outcome with no clear view of the country’s future may leave a situation similar to that in Libya for the years since the overthrow of that regime.
Perhaps Trump also saw this as an opportunity to distance himself from the Russian government and the problems he has been facing regarding his relationship with it and the accusations/investigations occurring in this country concerning alleged Russian interference with our elections last year. Russia and Iran are among the few countries to voice strenuous objections to the American attack. The resulting press coverage of this attack, when added to the sudden lack of movement in Congressional investigations of the election tampering and possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates (conveniently timed to coincide with yet another lengthy Congressional recess), leads some to consider the episode to be another distraction from the recent setbacks the Trump Administration has faced in dealing with Congress and the media concerning lack of progress on his agenda as articulated during the campaign.
Our President seems intent on a course of increased militarization at the expense of programs designed to alleviate problems faced by the most unfortunate among us here at home. His budget proposals to date call for increasing defense spending and decreasing expenditures for peaceful pursuits or improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us. The only economic initiatives he has made thus far intentionally endanger the environment and the health and wellbeing of many American workers. His infrastructure plans, other than his intention to pay for his much ballyhooed border wall at the expense of the working poor while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy and corporate deregulation that will set back consumer protections and worker rights by decades, have not even begun discussion in Congress.
Like Reagan over three decades ago and George W. Bush earlier in this century, the numbers don’t add up. Building up military spending while providing enormous tax cuts for the oligarchs will increase the deficit while simultaneously harming the people Trump promised to benefit the most. Then, once again, the GOP will say they need to reduce spending on the social safety net to balance the budget without raising taxes. Ask the people in Kansas and other states which have tried this strategy in recent years how that’s working out for them.
Military adventurism to distract from his inability to make gains in enacting the platform used to bring him the White House will not help Trump with his main supporters for long. Throwing his weight behind a health care proposal that would decimate health coverage for millions just to give higher profits to insurance companies and a bonanza of tax cuts to millionaires would not have fooled many for long, but he has shown no willingness to actually take action which will improve the economy, wages, wealth distribution or future prospects for the vast majority of the American people.
Spending close to $100 million in one spectacular but highly ineffective display of military might that could very easily have alleviated the budgetary pressures being placed on more beneficial programs. This is a blatant waste of both time and money – except from the perspective of the arms manufacturers whose coffers will be filled in order to replace the expended missiles. Even using the same money to alleviate the suffering of the refugees we helped place in harm’s way would be more productive than making things go boom without really changing the situation on the ground. How could taxpayer money be better spent than it is now on extravagant expenses for his weekly vacations in Florida and elsewhere? For a man donating his salary, he, his family and companies seem to be making out pretty well feeding at the public trough. The small amounts being spent on Meals on Wheels and other programs on the chopping block seem far wiser in comparison.
Congress needs to step up and perform its Constitutional duties when it comes to authorizing or forbidding expenditures advancing a poorly articulated and perhaps even non-existent policy designed to supposedly meet our national security interests in Syria and elsewhere in the world. Saber rattling and bluster do not adequately replace diplomacy for a country that prides itself on defending individual freedom and human rights. Trump’s generals make more sense in this regard than he does. At least Obama recognized limits on his authority when it came to enacting his foreign policy initiatives. Trump has shown no inclination to even ask before acting. That is a recipe for disaster. How many new anti-American terrorists are being recruited on a daily basis due to his ordering of military strikes in countries in the region (most notably in Syria, Iraq and Yemen)? How many innocents are being killed by American drone strikes and arms provided to both sides of the conflicts?
Some Congressional Democrats are beginning to speak out about these issues – but not to the extent that they’ll cut short another unearned recess. For most, it seems to be business as usual, biding time, only acting at the last minute to avert fiscal catastrophe while blaming their opponents for getting little else done. They all need to stop pretending they are there to serve the President instead of those they were elected to represent. Trump, McConnell and Ryan are in business primarily to make things easier on the oligarchs at our expense. Trump, himself, is proving to be very adept at blatantly enriching himself and his cronies while claiming the opposite with little if any accountability. How long will they succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of those they have thus far convinced to vote against their own interests?
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