The tragedy of Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, and Trump’s being a not ready for prime time commander in chief

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Apr 07, 2017 The tragedy of Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, and Trump’s being a not ready for prime time commander in chief

If my blog addressed all the present human rights violations and humanitarian crises, that is all my blog would address. My silence on any particular matter does not at all mean indifference.

The 2016 presidential election was a race between Hillary Clinton — who I saw as so bad that I voted for the overly socialist Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary — and Donald Trump, whom I still see as a huge danger, starting with his having the authority to launch a nuclear war, and continuing with his inability and unwillingness to acknowledge that as president he would be and now is completely in over his head, thereby at once leaving tremendously unchecked power in his cabinet members and top advisers, but also leaving us with a White House that runs too much by Trumpian caprice than by sufficient deliberation and insight.

About the only thing I saw worse about Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump was that I expected her to be a more militarily hawkish president than Trump. In fact, who knows whether Trump’s order to send cruise missiles against Bashar al-Assad’s military into Syria on April 6 was egged on by Clinton’s urging the bombing of Syrian military airfields, lest Trump look milquetoast in the face of such a resolute urging from Clinton?

Any president would have felt in a bind after the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria on its own civilians — apparently at Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s own order — between seeming indecisive at not launching a quick and decisive military response, and having that seemingly decisive response do little to change anything unless it was a prelude to further military action (and where further military action would stop, nobody knows). At the same time, it is deeply troubling that Trump launched this attack without first seeking Congressional approval, possibly with little to know consultation with any members of Congress, without taking additional time to be certain that al-Assad launched the chemical attack that triggered Trump’s cruise missile attack, apparently without sufficient deliberation for the change in his previous declarations against striking Syria’s military, and without seeming first to look at the bigger picture (for instance whether only to launch such attacks when civilians are killed by chemical weapons, where and how to launch such attacks, what types of attacks to launch, and how much to risk civilian from such United States military attacks).

This United States cruise missile attack against a Syrian military base was not part of any anti-terrorism campaign, so efforts against terrorism did not justify the attack. Where is the United States’ domestic law and international law basis to allow such an attack, particularly without advance Congressional approval? The mere brutality of this chemical weapons attack is not by itself sufficient to have justified Trump’s cruise missile strike. This unilateral strike decision by Trump may be a prelude of things to come with Trump’s unilaterally ordering military strikes and the expansion of our domestic surveillance/spying state, national security state, and police state.

As a United States military anti-terrorism specialist told me not long ago, the United States is not effective with regime change. We saw that with the over hundred fifty thousand lives lost and many more maimed and otherwise injured in Gulf War II, plus the billions of dollars spent to remove Saddam Hussein and keep fighting and occupying there. What good resulted, other than the removal of Hussein, than a huge power vacuum, terrorism galore, and the introduction and bolstering of ISIL?

What will happen in Syria if the United States and its allies forcibly remove the Bashar Assad regime? ISIS/ISIL will love nothing better than to fill the resulting power vacuum, and even if that does not happen, Syria looks unlikely to veer much towards democracy in a post-Assad Syria. Add to that Russia’s close alliance with Assad’s regime, and Syria probably is bigger mess to go to war in than was Iraq, starting with the hugely increased civilian casualties that would result from the United States going to war in Syria, which is around twice as densely populated per square mile than Iraq, which already suffered massive casualties from Gulf War II.

Trump used words generally acceptable to Americans and Western governments in decrying the chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, but he does not have the temperament, mentality, nor political insight and experience to be the commander in chief for this nor any other military crisis. Moreover, his launching of this attack on Syria’s military less than three months into his presidency may help turn Trump into more of a military war hawk acting unilaterally rather than with Congressional approval, than he might otherwise have been as president.

Of course, do not expect Trump to seek a Congressional declaration of war (under the War Powers Clause, U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 1) before any limited military actions, nor even for any full-scale military actions. Congress has not declared war since World War II. 

The years-long Syrian mess will not be undone anytime soon, nor will the damage from the Trump presidency.

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