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Friday, April 07, 2017


He did something. Now what?

by Tom Sullivan

Last night, President Trump ordered strikes on Syria. From Huffington Post:

After two days of deliberation, President Donald Trump authorized the military to launch 59 cruise missiles at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said. The move was conducted in retaliation for a chemical weapon attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, allegedly carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. The chemical weapon attack, which killed at least 70 people, was conducted from the Shayrat base, Davis said.


Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told MSNBC, “There are no current plans for additional strikes.” Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was briefed Thursday night by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Now what? What's Trump's definition of winning this time? (Not that he'd stick to it.)

Response from leaders from both major parties was mixed, with suggestions that Trump consult Congress before further action. A statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the actions “appropriate and just," but added that he looks "forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort." Republican Rand Paul (Kentucky) insisted Trump's actions needed the approval by Congress.

The Hill describes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as offering "measured support." Durbin first:

“It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it. I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today.”

Pelosi said "The crisis in Syria will not be resolved by one night of airstrikes."
In talking points given to the Washington Post, the administration claims it needed no authority for action:
“No authorization from Congress is necessary,” the document states. “The U.S. strikes were a justified use of force because of several factors, including promoting regional stability, discouraging the use of chemical weapons, and protecting a civilian population from humanitarian atrocities.”

The administration also says Russia seeks to sow confusion in the global community about who is responsible for the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people and rejects the Russian government’s claims that the recent attack was aimed at an opposition chemical weapons depot. “It is a completely implausible assertion, and demeaning of those innocents who lost their lives,” the notes read. “Russia promotes a set of false facts, supported only by the Assad regime and its backers, much like it did after the attack on a UN convoy in northern Aleppo last September, or after the horrific use of chemical weapons in Ghouta in 2013, and as it does after each and every atrocity launched by the regime.”
But it is not clear that Trump has any plans beyond blowing up something. This makes Trump look like he is more than bluster and that he is tough on Russia, but the action throws off his trade and "America first" trade and jobs agenda. He got to "bomb the shit" out of somebody, but if he accomplishes weakening Assad, he may strengthen ISIS, just the opposite to his avowed goal. He might have chosen, as Paul Waldman suggests, to stay focused on ISIS because, after all, this wasn't Assad's first chemical attack:
That would be a defensible position to take, and in line with his previous statements. But we know that Trump is a man who cares a great deal about being seen as strong and manly. The idea that people might call him weak if he refrains from military action — especially when he knows that such restraint would put him in the same position as Barack Obama — was surely on his mind.

Assad's action forced Trump's hand, but can the famously ADD president who seems to need so much golf handle the multitasking managing domestic and international affairs requires?

The already tense situation in the South China Sea, a major shipping route, threatens to demand his focus as Trump entertains Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islands
and shoals it claims in the disputed South China Sea, asserting Philippine sovereignty in an apparent change of tack likely to anger China.

So now Trump's portfolio includes trade, jobs, taxes, Syria, China and, ah yes, Russia. Jared Kushner is going to be very, very busy.