One of the few points on which I agreed with Donald Trump during the election campaign was on his statements to the effect that the US should not get involved in Middle Eastern wars. Of course, Trump being Trump, he made the contradictory promise to “have a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days.” (There some ambiguity as to whether the 30 days was the time taken to produce the plan, or whether he already had the plan and would have ISIS beaten in 30 days. As of day 78, it scarcely matters). But one point that came across reasonably clearly was that Trump wasn’t going to do anything about removing Bashir Assad from power, and was going to increase co-operation with Putin, Assad’s patron.
All that has now gone by the board, but it is unclear what is going to replace it. Following the horrific poison gas attack a few days ago, Trump responded in thoroughly Trumpish fashion. His missile attack was big enough to mark a clear, and possibly irreversible, escalation of US involvement, but not big enough to have any military effect. A day after their airbase was attacked, Syrian Air Force planes were flying out of it to launch more strikes against their opponents.
I don’t have a solution to the current mess other than the Irish advice “if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”. But, at least I now have the cognitive consistency of knowing there is now no policy issue of importance on which I agree with Trump.
fn1. Very probably, though not certainly, undertaken by Assad’s regime. I don’t want to be derailed by this and will delete, with prejudice, any comments seeking to ventilate alternative theories.
fn2. Obvious wrong turnings on the way to where we are start with the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1915 and go all the way to the Iraq war.
fn3. I was happy that he refused to sign TPPA. But it’s now clear he’s pursuing the standard corporate agenda on trade, including ISDS and strong IP.