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Saturday, April 14, 2018

No puppet, no puppet

by digby

Trump got his distraction but he didn't get the full-scale war he supposedly wanted:
Mr Trump called his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day. The two leaders have been coordinating very closely joint responses and actions on Syria and Mr Macron called the Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of speaking to Mr Trump.

But in Washington, the debate on US options intensified amidst reports that Mr Trump is at odds with his defence chief over the military options in Syria.

The US President “is prodding his military advisers to agree to a more sweeping retaliatory strike in Syria than they consider prudent, and is unhappy with the more limited options they have presented to him so far,” reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Unlike Mr Mattis who is concerned of retaliatory measures against the US and has been advocating a limited strike, Mr Trump “has been pushing for an attack that not only would punish the Syrian regime but also exact a price from two of its international patrons, Russia and Iran,” US officials told the paper.

“He wants Mattis to push the limits a little bit more,” the official said.

The National reported on Thursday that Mr Mattis presented limited strikes options to the US President yesterday, and none of them debilitate the Assad regime airpower.

Mr Trump was not happy with the options presented, prompting his defence secretary to cancel a trip to New York and hold meetings at the Pentagon to expand the list of potential responses.

Mr Mattis’ caution is largely driven by fear of retaliation from Russia or Iran or both, and being dragged into the Syrian civil war.

The Wall Street Journal revealed that “over the past two days, the Pentagon has had two opportunities to launch attacks against Syria in reprisal for a suspected chemical weapons attack, but Mr. Mattis halted them.” One of the attacks was scheduled for Thursday night.

According to the same report, Mr Trump is preoccupied with the Syria attack and response. “He has asked for briefing materials and was moved by images of children with foam bubbling from their mouths, symptoms of chemical weapons poisoning, aides said."

Mr Trump’s view on broader strikes is supported by most of his cabinet including his new national security adviser John Bolton, Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan. Mr Bolton, who is known for his hawkish foreign policy record, “favours an attack that would be “ruinous,” crippling some part of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government and national infrastructure” the paper said.

Nicholas Heras, a defence fellow at the Center for new American Security, told The National that the divisions over policy options within the Trump team implies that “there is an extraordinarily intense debate within the administration about the timing, and how hard to strike Mr Assad."
According to CNN, the questions of whether to strike at all was moot once Trump tweeted his tweet:
The resistance has upset Trump, who wanted to take quick action and feels like the options being presented to him don't go far enough, according to the officials.

Nevertheless, there is a view among Trump's national security team that the President's tweets earlier this week -- including one threatening US missiles "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart' " -- forced their hand and made some type of strikes inevitable. But there is an effort to calibrate the response, even as Trump is pressing his team to act.

"Once the President tweeted what he tweeted we have to go forward," one senior administration official said.

This is how we conduct military affairs now.

I suspect that Trump wants more than anything a chance to demonstrate that he isn't Putin's puppet and they leaked the notion that he wanted to hit him for that purpose. If he had really wanted to do it, he would have.

So, Mattis gets a win against Bolton, which will not be forgotten I'm sure, and Trump gets to look like he's standing up to Putin. This is not the end.

Meanwhile, bombs fall for symbolic reasons mainly because Trump impulsively tweeted that they were on their way. The people of Syria are even more terrified than they already were. It will have zero effect on the course of that hideous war.

And so it goes. Horrifyingly complicated problems with few solutions, at least by Americans who, more often than not, make things worse. But there is one thing we could do: allow Syrian refugees to settle in America. But that's off the table. We have allowed only 11 Syrian refugees into the United States this year.

Trump is moved by pictures of children frothing at the mouth but not enough to allow them and their families into this country. He says they might be terrorists. But we know the real reason. They aren't white. (Even if they were Christian he wouldn't want them here, buhleeeme.)

So it's symbolic bombing to allow Trump to fulfill his tweet promises and then whateves. And that's assuming Bolton doesn't decide that it's time to "take out" Kim Jong Un, which Trump would be thrilled to do since Russia isn't involved. That could be next.