November 19, 2017

Syria – Has Trump Fallen Into The Trap?

President Donald Trump ordered two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the USS Ross and the USS Porter, to attack a Syrian base. They fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a single target, Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in western Syria.

President Trump ordered this in response to yet another new atrocity occurring in Syria.
It happened in Idlib province, right next to to Northeastern Lebanon at a place called
Khan Sheikhoun. Dozens of people were reported killed and many injured by what appears to be a Sarin gas attack. Followed by the usual poignant pictures and purple rhetoric.

If I seem callous and cynical about this, it’s because what happened at Khan Sheikhoun appears to be following a pattern.

Al-Qaeda in Syria and its allied “moderate rebels” like al-Nusrah are undergoing some serious defeats. Their last offensive on Hama was thrown back with heavy losses. The Russian defense ministry said that more than 2,000 Jihadis had been killed. Another attack on the port city of Latakia was stopped and repulsed by massive Russian air strikes.

The old question Qui bono, who benefits puts this in an entirely different light. First off, we know that there are lots of chemical weapons in Syria, many of them shipped there by Assad’s fellow Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in Iraq on the eve of our invasion. Well, not quite on the eve, but during the nineteen month delay that occurred thanks to the Left’ s street theater and debates. And who knows what came in to Syria thanks to President Obama’s illegal war in Libya? In any event, the shifting nature of the war has ensured that both Assad’s forces and the jihadis have access to chemical weapons.

(Snap quiz for all you Obama fans reading this. Your narrative was that our brilliant president confronted Putin and Assad forcefully and made Assad give all his chemical weapons to Russia, remember? 

If that’s true, then it can’t be the Syrian army who launched this gas attack, right? If it wasn’t true, then President Obama was simply the clueless buffoon, ideologue and easy mark he almost always was in anything remotely resembling foreign affairs, yes? Which one was it? Remember to show your work…)

As far as who benefits, it likely isn’t Assad. With the assistance of Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, he’s been doing quite well militarily lately. The last thing I’d want in his situation would be a gas attack with lots of media coverage right now, especially just two days before another international conference on Syria.

Now the jihadis, those ‘moderate Syrian rebels?’ Different story. Islamist killers have learned well haw easy it is to manipulate the gullible media and stage atrocities for propaganda purposes. One of those right now has already resulted in a missile attack on a key Syrian base within spitting distance of their strongholds in Idlib.

And yes, this is a pattern. Whenever the jihadis suffer a military defeat or need propaganda, we  have seen another gas attack or other atrocity with lots of bleeders, especially children. The exact same thing happened a while ago after the Jihadis suffered military defeats in Ghouta, near Damascus. This was a failed attempt to secure the area south of Damascus for the presumptive no fly zone the Obama Administration had been trying to arrange.

After being hurled back,  the Syrian ‘moderates’ announced that there had been a massive chemical attack which allegedly inflicted about 1,300 fatalities including hundreds of children. As in previous chemical attacks blamed on the Assad government, the jihadis claimed the attacks used Sarin nerve gas, and they flooded YouTube with videos, especially ones featuring children.

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Except there never was any conclusive evidence about the attack or the perpetrators. Even the reports from the jihadis themselves were conflicted. First, the gas was supposedly delivered via missiles. When EU politicians and Obama started yapping about enforcing a no fly zone ala’ Libya, all of a sudden the rebels were claiming the gas was delivered by an aerial bombardment – except there was no evidence of shrapnel wounds,par for the course when ot come to  both artillery or airborne attacks of this kind. Mot only that, but  when news of the attacks first went public, the UN delegation and foreign diplomats were denied access to the attack site for a week by the Syrian opposition because it ‘wasn’t safe’ for them. At least not until the props and visuals were ready to be filmed.

We also don’t know who fired shots at the UN delegation when they were finally allowed to enter the attack site by the Assad regime. It could very well have been Assad’s men…but it could also just as easily been the insurgents.

Same story with the Houla massacre that was supposed to have been perpetrated by Assad’s troops and had the usual suspects screaming for us to make a ‘humanitarian intervention’. It turned out that atrocity was performed by the rebels as a false flag operation.

Please, baby, don’t let me be misunderstood. What’s going on in Syria is horrible, but by no means uncommon in these parts. War here is war to the knife. We are not dealing with a culture anything like ours. So no matter who actually pulled off the attack on  Khan Sheikhoun, this is normal stuff to the actual  participants, regardless of how we see it. Again, war to the knife.

Which brings me to the next question. Just why did President Trump fire those missiles at Syria and was it a proper response or a huge error? Well, it depends.

If President Trump was trying to send a message to Basher Assad and Vladimir Putin  that he ain’t Barack Obama and that if it was them, they had better NOT use gas attacks again, that’s one thing. The Russians, by the way, said that the gas was released by an attack on an al-Nusrah jihadi arsenal, which sounds somewhat plausible. Putin’s spokesperson,  Dmitry Peskov, also hurried to say that their support for Assad was ‘not unconditional.’

From the Associated Press:

Peskov told The Associated Press in an interview that “unconditional support is not possible in this current world,” but added that “it is not correct to say that Moscow can convince Mr. Assad to do whatever is wanted in Moscow. This is totally wrong.”…

Peskov said Russia expects a full international investigation into the attack before the U.N. Security Council considers any resolution condemning the chemical attack that he described as “very tragic.” Doing otherwise, he said, would be “simply unfair in terms of international law.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Asked what proof Moscow has for that assessment, Peskov said that Russia is the only legitimate foreign power on the ground in Syria and therefore has “more wide information about what is going on there.”

So much for Trump being ‘Putin’s puppet’ hmmm?

On the other hand, if President Trump is using this as an opening gambit to getting us seriously involved in Syria with the idea of regime change, he’s making a huge mistake.

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First, and most important, what exactly would we be  trying to accomplish in Syria by intervening and promoting regime change? A sovereign Syrian nation under democratic rule that’s an ally of the west? It seems to me we’ve tried that before and failed miserably in every case.

Quite simply, the ‘customers’ aren’t interested in what we’re selling. Oh, they’ll hold an election here and there if they’re bribed by enough western aid money, but it always breaks down along tribal lines because that’s what most of these people know and understand. And the inherent culture regards what we consider liberty with fear and loathing, because it diametrically opposes what Islam teaches them. Small wonder it’s been such a waste of time, blood and treasure, especially given how we’ve gone about it.

Syria is a made up, dysfunctional failed state, a few provinces cobbled together after WWI. No one has ever been able to make much of it, Not Alexander, not the Seleucid Greeks, not the Byzantines or even the Ottomans. It produces some agricultural products, has some manufacturing and a few nice Mediterranean ports. Damascus grew because of the trade routes, but that was literally centuries ago and those trade caravan routes no longer exists. At this point, Syria isn’t even feeding itself and it wasn’t when the civil war erupted, which is a huge part of why it erupted, sectarian conflicts aside. As the price of cereal grains and other food staples rose, Assad simply didn’t have the money to artificially lower them with subsidies like the Saudis and others did.

There are bad actors on both sides of the sectarian civil war, and no benefit to us to intervene because the killing will go on. It’s the reverse of Clausewitz’s famous line. In places like Syria war is politics by other means.

If Assad is out of the picture or if we remove him, just watch as the jihadi factions start warring among themselves after they finish killing off the Alawites, Shia, Christians and Druse.

I’m hoping President Trump was just sending a message here. If we intervene in this killing ground it will be a huge mistake. Ditto with taking in ‘refugees’ like Europe did.

As the well known biblical quote goes, he that troubleth his own house will inherit the wind. I hope President Trump keeps that in mind. There’s no gain for America falling into the trap of either importing Syria’s dysfunction or investing blood and treasure to make it something it’s not.

Rob Miller

Rob Miller writes for Joshuapundit. His articles have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The San Francisco Chronicle, Real Clear Politics, The Times Of Israel, Breitbart.Com and other publications.