Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump's Defense Secretary, James Mattis

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION reacted to the apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Bashar al-Assad government with a flurry of air strikes against a Syrian military airfield Thursday night.  The bombing occurred after a widespread clamor for Trump to “do something” and without a thorough debate about what ultimate goal the U.S. is attempting to reach. 

 This is exactly what Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, warned about in remarks he made in 2013. Mattis had just retired from his role as the commander of U.S. Central Command, and agreed to be interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about U.S. policy in the Middle East. When Blitzer asked Mattis about his views on military intervention against Syria’s government, the former general sounded a stern note of caution. He stressed that the United States should not intervene without a serious and well thought-out plan, and that it would be an enormous commitment. 

 “On Syria, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have to determine what is the end state we want. This war needs to be ended as rapidly as possible. That’s the bottom line,” Mattis began. “But if the Americans go in, if the Americans take leadership, if the Americans take ownership of this, it’s going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war. And anyone who says this is going to be easy, that we can do a no-fly zone and it’ll be cheap, I would discount that on the outset.” 

 He then drew an analogy to the war in Iraq.


Syrian jets carry out attacks from base hours after US missile strike: report


Catherine Brown said...

Many voted for Trump precisely because he was opposed to nation building AND to meddling in the Middle East.

dunkinville said...

It's become clear that Trump initiated his bombing because he needed a "win." Just four short years ago Trump let out a series of tweets telling Obama in no uncertain terms that it would be foolish and stupid for him to attack Syria in any sort of bombing action. And yet this is exactly what Trump did. He lurches from one strongly held belief to the exact opposite. Does Trump believe in anything except getting a win? It doesn't look like it. Lots of people point out that Trump's "concern" about the babies and children being gassed sounds hollow since he will not let any of them into this country when they desperately need somewhere to escape Assad's brutality. Dropping a few bombs on a military installation doesn't make Trump a hero or even a good leader, it makes him look like a ratings whore.

Infidel753 said...

Joan: Trump initiated his bombing because he needed a "win."

Based on the update link at the end of the post, he didn't even get a win. Not if the base is still operational. How is it possible that 59 cruise missiles failed to knock it out?

This post at RedState claims Trump violated the Constitution by ordering the attack. I can't judge the accuracy of the argument, but it sounds reasonable.

I'm no fan of Asad, but it will be a very good thing if this turns into yet another embarrassing failure for Trump. Reckless military action is the most dangerous risk he poses, and he needs to be discouraged. A strike against North Korea (which he's been saber-rattling at) could provoke an artillery barrage against Seoul or even a nuclear attack on Japan, with global repercussions. It's the stuff of nightmares.

The worse the Syria strike turns out to be for Trump, the better he'll learn not to risk similar actions in the future.

Jerry Critter said...

I've been listening to the news. Lots about Syria. Nothing about Trump-Russia. Mission accomplished!

More Trump-Russian conclusion?

dunkinville said...

Infidel, the media fell for Trump's "strongman" ploy. Trump is now fund-raising off the bombing that didn't do any real harm to Assad and his regime. Trump is truly a master of the con.

Infidel753 said...

Jerry: He can distract the media, but that won't have any effect on the investigations, which are what matter.

Distractions are inevitable with Trump since he's always doing or saying something outrageous. This particular distraction is proving counterproductive since it's alienating a lot of isolationist Trumpanzees. Remember most Republicans in Congress want Trump gone (they'd rather have Pence) -- the main thing holding them back from impeaching him is their fear of his hordes of excitable armed moron supporters. Once he loses enough of them, he's toast.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Catherine, Joan, Jerry, Infidel753,

Here's Charlie Pierce explaining how Trump got away with doing what the Goopers would not allow President Obama:

"The administration did not come prepared to discuss either a strategy vis a vis Syria, or the legal authority for what occurred last night, and they indicated that those would be addressed in the days to come. In particular, the legal authority question is one that I find very, very troubling by way of history.

"In 2011, when President Obama committed American military assets in Libya, and described the need for the mission as humanitarian and a need to create stability in the region, and to work as part of an international coalition, the House voted down an authorization and said it was a rebuke of President Obama for initiating military action without getting permission first. When President Obama went to Congress in 2013 to seek authorization for use of military to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against civilians, numerous members of this body wrote a letter to the president saying that any action without congressional approval. The current president, as a citizen, said that President Obama couldn't take action against Syrian use of chemical weapons without a congressional authorization. The fact that this action was taken without a congressional authorization is deeply troubling."

The hell of it all is, none of this matters a damn. The president—any president—has the freedom now to make war anywhere he wants and the only real check on that power is whether or not he respects the constitutional obligations of his office—which seems to have turned out to be President Obama's biggest mistake after the Libyan campaign went sour. And, even if this president brings up an AUMF for Syria next week, is there any doubt that it would pass, and in a bipartisan manner, no matter how ferocious the debate preceding its passage is?

There has been an alarming disregard for the inherent restraints of constitutional democracy in Washington all week. Once broken, these restraints are damnably hard to rebuild. There is something terribly out of control in the government of the United States, a wildness far too easy for people to exploit for personal power and private gain. It's like standing in the middle of a whirlwind in which echoes Pogo's legendary paraphrase of what Oliver Hazard Perry famously said after the Battle of Lake Erie: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Kevin Robbins said...

Thanks for the Mattis quote, Shaw. In 2013 after a much more horrendous chemical attack, Obama couldn't get the American people, Congress or our allies to go along with a punishing cruise missile attack. His trustworthiness was at 55%. Trump's is now at 42%. Unless this goes really, really well like Assad losing power he's going to drop even farther in approval. The alt-right nuts, Coulter, Ingraham, Breitbart et al are up in arms. He's even losing his base.

Shaw Kenawe said...


I've written dozens of times that Trump has no core values or policies, for that matter. He's for whatever sounds good at the moment. It's presidenting by impulse and not deliberation, which is mind-numbingly insane, considering the kind of power Trump has in his little hands.

Trump was emphatic while campaigning to put America FIRST! And not be distracted by wars in the M.E. His first test? He does completely the opposite of what he promised and what he incessantly criticized President Obama about when Mr. Obama asked Congress for authorization to bomb limited targets in Syria.

Trump is a maniac and a danger to not just us, but the world.

Grey One talks sass said...

Trumplethinskin got the win he needed. The company which builds the bombs, along with other Military Industrial Complex stocks, rose sharply on Friday. For a man who defines everything as money, that appears to be a win in my eyes.

My soul cries in horror as humans justify pain with dollars. What is wrong with us?

Shaw Kenawe said...

Grey One talks sass asked: What is wrong with us?

Not "us;" what is wrong with the people who voted for Trump? He was very up-front about how unprepared and ill tempered to be the POTUS, and yet millions of people voted for him because they wanted something "different."

As HL Mencken wrote:

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Jerry Critter said...

"...and deserve to get it good and hard."

In Trump's case it is more like get it bad and soft.