Trump’s Assad Assassination Revelation Undermines His Campaign

"Trump is simply playing with fire, as has grown enamored with the awesome power over life and death."

I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it,” President Donald Trump told Fox News this week. Back in the day, the president explained, he would have rather “taken him out,” but relented to the warnings of Secretary of Defense James Mattis.  

I could “have lived either way with that,” Trump said of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. “You know I considered him certainly not a good person, but I had a shot to take him out if I wanted to, and Mattis was against it. … Mattis was against most of that stuff.” For those plugged-in on the convulsions of the Trump presidency and this administration’s foreign policy, it was a truly shocking remark, even for a White House that’s long lost its capacity to astonish. For the uninitiated just starting to pay attention, it must have been truly bewildering stuff, as Trump’s re-election campaign has in recent weeks beat the drum with a counterclaim: Trump is anti-war.

In August, an ad was cut for a Republican presidential candidate with the phrase “make peace, not war.” Old favorites like Rand Paul told the Republican National Convention in August that Trump was the first president in a generation “to seek to end war rather than start one.” And traditional hawks, perhaps sensing which way the wind is blowing, even got in on the act. “A lot’s changed in four years,” Tom Cotton told the convention. “No one who has seen the face of war desires to see it again. … Too many of our fellow Americans are already honored at the hallowed grounds of Arlington.”

But now Trump’s back is against the wall, especially on national security. And his flippant remark about Assad does little to assuage concerns that he is just not a steady hand.

Twin revelations — first, Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent reporting that Trump denigrated military service in shocking terms, and second, Bob Woodward’s recent reporting that Trump intentionally downplayed the Coronavirus threat in an effort to stave off panic — have damaged the president politically. Keeping Americans safe is the cardinal duty of the president. This is true, even if you’re uncomfortable with Mr. Goldberg’s murky-at-best record on Iraq, or have noticed that Mr. Woodward always seems to be licking his chops to oust Republican presidents. The effect is the same: none of this is helping Trump.

But until the Fox interview, Trump had been responding to his latest bad news cycle in an interesting way. He was telling the truth.

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me,” Trump said. “The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, that make the planes and everything else, stay happy.” Combined with the “make peace, not war” ad, it seemed another way the last Boomer president, in his own way, tipped his hat to his generation’s hippie roots. “The figure most associated with this kind of thinking is Noam Chomsky, the famous linguist who emerged during the Vietnam War as an anti-war prophet,” said neoconservative reporter Eli Lake this week on Trump’s remark.

But the Assad comment truly poured cold water on the idea of Trump the peacenik. And on Syria, at least, the comment throws into serious doubt the idea of Trump the realist. This is all the more astonishing — because, think what you will about Trump  — few others in American politics have been willing to point out what is commonplace knowledge in the rest of the globe: the world is complicated, and it is clear that America does not always help. The late Obama years were dominated by a will-we-or-won’t-we oscillation in Washington on action on Syria, in particular. President Obama, supported by his most significant chief of staff (Dennis McDonough), eventually passed on more robust action to oust Assad, after flirting with war. But the duo was a minority in its own administration, with even Secretary of State John Kerry signing on to dissent cables critical of America’s alleged heartlessness.

Far more than Obama, Trump brought to the 2016 campaign trail a more overt enunciation of why America should stay out. The reporting on the vast crimes of Mr. Assad’s government was acknowledged. “I don’t like Assad at all,” Trump said in the campaign. But Trump promised to bring a tough-minded mentality to the region, one that belied a reasoned understanding of what nasty actors like Iran and Russia were up to. “Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS,” Trump said. Trump reported on what Assad had become: a gangster with serious blood on his hands, but also a protector of religious minorities, and in a country where Islamic State and al-Qaeda are serious minority parties, Trump had the termity to suggest maybe it was best for America to take a pass. With all his caterwauling about Iraq, Trump’s memory of the last time the United States knocked off a mustachioed Ba’athist seemed searing.

But Trump’s flippant remark about killing Assad would seem the coup de grace of four years of incoherent Syria policy. Trump attacked Assad twice, in the springs of 2017 and 2018, after likely chemical weapons use by the regime. In 2018, specifically, Trump considered an expansive assault on the government in Damascus, championed by newly-installed national security advisor John Bolton. At Mattis’ urging, Trump went with a smaller airstike, but not before apparently considering an outright assassination of Assad, despite strenuous previous denials. “I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed,” Trump said in 2018, apparently lying.

But Trump’s Syria policy continued to be all over the map. A spat with Mattis forced the military man’s ouster in late 2018. The conflict? Trump wanted to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria. Now, it was Mattis the hawk, Trump the restrainer.

But almost two years on, American forces are still in the country, and Trump’s pointman on the conflict is Washington foriegn policy grandee — and former NeverTrumper — Jim Jeffrey. Jeffrey said this year that the U.S. remains in the country to counteract Assad’s booster, Iran [and create a “quagmire” for Russia] , which Trump previously touted for its role in annihilating ISIS.

The main counterpoint to any frustration with Trump’s foreign policy is one defense: the so-called “madman theory.” Cribbed from the Richard Nixon White House, it holds there is nuanced continuity in Trump’s approach. Trump threatens “fire and fury” on North Korea, before sitting down for a deal. He punishes Assad, before laying the groundwork to leave the country. And to hear some Iran hawks, he assassinates senior Iranian officials like Qasem Soleimani, in order to increase his leverage at a future bargaining table. But there is another theory: Trump is simply playing with fire, as has grown enamored with the awesome power over life and death. The Soleimani strike, in particular, remains concerning. The fact that (so far) such a daring moving has been met with minimal reprisal — combined with comments on Assad to Fox — indicate that Trump could just be getting used to assassination as a staple of statecraft.

The journal Responsible Statecraft argues that Mike Pompeo, the hawkish secretary of state, could be pushing for an October surprise. The problem with the “madman theory” and the Nixon years is that Nixon is now generally seen as needlessly prolonging the war. Nixon, of course, was also prematurely ejected from Washington, a potentiality that must no doubt be weighing heavily now on Trump’s mind. The worry for the Trump campaign is that all this “nuance” is lost on the voter.

Source: The American Conservative

  1. cechas vodobenikov says

    to believe US can be reformed one must be unaware of the distorted American character—these people believe curiosity is a crime, feeling a disease and thinking a sexual perversion—-they are only found in the darkest crevices of Plato’s cave.

  2. cechas vodobenikov says

    trump is obviously appealing to the bloodthirsty dimocrats—they have always enjoyed killing and torture more than the republikans

  3. Undecider says

    I doubt it. Most pro-Trumpers are pro-GWOT.

  4. restless94110 says

    This is ridiculous nonsense. Trump wonders aloud about a lot of strategies and ideas. He didn’t do it, yoiu loon. Why would you think Woodward has a thing of value to say about any thing?

  5. nick1111 says

    Goddamn idiot in the WH surrounded himself with murderers and assassins

    1. itchyvet says

      Birds of a feather, flock together.

  6. richard kingston says

    Countless millions killed all over the globe by the evil empire-USA the US Holocaust it is. War-pig murderer Reagan and the Freedom Fighters in the White House for tea! talk about a Great Satan? well named Iran, well named indeed

    1. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

      Goddamnit. Those retarded 12th century fuck ups should have killed that fake bastard when they had the chance.

  7. Mike says

    What? “Trump’s Assad Assassination Revelation Undermines His Campaign”? Really? That undermines his campaign?

    1. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

      Makes me think twice about voting for the same old piece of shit we had in Bush the Brain Damaged and Barack the Bastard CIA Tool.

      1. itchyvet says

        WHY, does anyone in the U.S. even vote, when they know darn well, their votes are meaningless ??? L.O.L.

        1. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

          Agree and I haven’t voted since the 1980s.

        2. Sharon Marlowe says

          Because over a third of the population actually believes that their votes matter. Over a hundred million people go to the polls as if we’re a democracy. I was one of those people. I lived that lie for 30-something years. I was able to think my way out of that illusion by paying closer attention to the rest of the world, reading and listening to people much smarter than me. The Internet helped soooo much. Without it I’m sure I wouldn’t have used my brain my entire life.
          That’s a hope, really. That the Internet generations will have an easier time thinking than I had:)

      2. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

        Makes me more likely to vote for Jo Jorgensen if she is on the ballot when I vote early tomorrow, since she is a Harry Browne libertarian.

      3. Mike says

        Let me ask you…does it really matter who you vote for even if the candidates were different?

        1. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

          Certainly not, as far as domestic economic issues are concerned… Actually, not as far as war is concerned. War with Russia or war with China and that doesn’t matter because war with one is war with the other one and war with Iran. Let’s see…. They both suck Israel’s dick….

          Bezos and Gates and Boeing and that Twitter faggot and the stinking, camel shit Saudis, and brain damaged Ukraine Nazis rule the United States. Jethro and Tyrone are just too fucking ignorant and scared to admit it.

          I’m 63. I’ve watched this shit all of my life. I’ve spent 38 years working in a “non-partisan” way partly inside “The Imperial Beast”.

          1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

            You have been watching porn with heavy Photoshopping.

        2. nick1111 says

          They are all the same scum.
          Hard choice for voters, …….which bastard is better ?

  8. Sharon Marlowe says

    This is probably the worst article you could have dug up to analyse the assassin-in-chief’s confession. A bunch of right wing imperialist BS lying about Assad –” the vast crimes of Mr. Assad’s government”, “likely chemical weapons use by the regime”– while summing up the endless crimes of the U.S. regime as, “America does not always help”.
    Shit article.

    1. richard kingston says

      Poch ma hon Ok?

    2. Mike says

      “America does not always help”….. America never helps anyone unless they can gain from it. It does not matter just how bad a country needs help. If they call the US, they are about to make a deal with the devil.

      1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

        It is alway a mistake to conflate America and MICIMATT.

        1. Mike says

          Sorry but I disagree with you. Someone brought that up as an excuse to blame others for all the evil the White House has been done and continue to do today. Not a single war was started by stating the truth by the White House…not one! Millions of innocent people died because of lies. It’s not the military complex that created coups throughout history but the CIA while working on the White House orders. It’s not the military complex that uses sanctions as a weapon to make people suffer and die. It’s not the military complex that creates havoc world-wide by sending provocateurs to stir things up.

          I can go on and on but the point here is simple. The USA is an evil terrorist state and proven time and time by what they have done and continue to do today. History does not always lie.

          1. nick1111 says

            Israel is running the show

            1. itchyvet says

              People seem to forget, the entire reasoning for conflict in the M.E. is simply all about Israel. The Greater Israel, must ensure there are no nations available to stand against them or challenge their superiority. Therefore every nation in the M.E. must be whittled down to such an extent they can never ever challenge any of Israel’s demands. You can see the writing on the wall with these latest ALLEGED peace agreements with their Arab neighbors, which are nothing of the kind, but in reality A NATO of the nations with Israel leading the pack. Amazing very few folks have cottoned onto that yet. More amazing still, is the FACT Americans seem eager to sacrafice their young on behalf of Israel.

          2. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

            If you can’t separate them, you are part of them.

            1. Mike says

              That’s a moronic answer. All you need to do is to prove me wrong based on what I wrote. If you cannot do that, YOU are actually part of the problem.

      2. Sharon Marlowe says

        I couldn’t agree more, Mike

  9. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

    Such a big, tough, manly……. DUMB ASS.

  10. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

    Jeffrey Goldberg and Bob Woodward has proven to be bald-faced liars with further investigation of their specious reports.

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