[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem
-- Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address
Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles.
At approximately $1,410,000 each for the Navy TLAM variant depending on configuration.
That comes to $83,000,000 and change.
Divide that by the price of a basic model 32Gb iPhone 7, carry the 1, and you get 128,181 Republican healthcare plans…
Oh, I see.
You don’t think I should be making jokes out of a US missile strike?
But consider this: The Secretary of State is America’s chief diplomat, responsible for preventing war.
The Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the guy who up until three months ago was the CEO of ExxonMobil and who still holds billions in oil industry stock.
Last week, following a major US military strike on Syria and announcement that the US would not be seeking diplomatic solutions to either Syria or North Korea, oil prices on the global market surged up.
Potentially earning Rex Tillerson thousands, maybe millions – depending on how long this goes on.
Let that sink in.
Take all the time you need.
And then you tell me how this isn’t some sick fucking joke.
I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.
Donald Trump. Became president of the United States [Friday] night. After bombing Syria.
You ever wonder why the pundits say this? He truly became president when he ordered that military strike. Oh yes, indeed, he truly became president.
Because that’s how we Americans see it, right? Commander in Chief. A man isn’t truly president until he bombs some people, until he orders the military into action, until he commands America in war. That’s what we mean when we say “became president.”
You ever ask yourself why one doesn’t “become president” by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or healing the sick?
I mean, in a supposed Christian nation doesn’t that seem ass-backward to you?
Well, maybe it’s just me.
I guess what gets me most two days later isn’t that we bombed Syria per se. No, given the amount of war and destruction over there, nerve gas and falling bombs, shattered buildings, genocide, mass murder, what’s a few more dead kids at this point? I mean really, right?
No. It’s the hypocrisy.
Sean Hannity in September of 2013 talking about President Obama:
He wasn’t alone in his condemnation of Obama’s action in Syria.
The part that really sells it for me is the subtitle: “President commits impeachable offense.”
But then that was 2013 and the president was a black liberal, so, yes, I suppose it was indeed an impeachable offense because, really, what wasn’t an impeachable offense back then, amiright?
Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, the two sources which most often seem to shape Donald Trump’s viewpoint.
What I’m saying is stay out of Syria.
We should stay out of Syria and stay home, work on our own country.
Don’t attack Syria, that’s nothing but trouble.
No upside to attacking Syria. No, Sir. Nothing but trouble.
And besides, you have to get permission from Congress. Boy oh boy, big mistake if you don’t, Folks. Big mistake.
Funny how four years changes your perspective, isn’t it?
Sean Hannity yesterday, when somebody mentioned his 2013 comment.
This is beyond dumb. Let me guess, you loved Obama.
That’s hilarious. And it’s not an actual answer. Why is it beyond dumb? Why is it brilliant strategy for one president and the height of arrogant folly for another? Essentially Hannity just said, it’s okay if Trump does it, but for Obama it’s an impeachable offense.
Don’t get me wrong here, it does make a difference why a president takes a certain action and the same decision can indeed be folly for one and genius for another. We’ll come back to that later. And that’s not what Hannity is saying here. Instead he calls his critic dumb without explanation.
I leave it up to you to figure out why that might be.
Trump strikes Syrian base. But, let’s wait and see. No impeachable offense subtitles here either. Just “analysis.”
Yes, indeed, funny how perspectives change.
In September of 2013, Paul Ryan was staunchly opposed to any action against Syria and he wasn’t shy about saying so.
About the only guy who hasn’t changed positions is Senator John McCain.
He’s just grateful we finally got to blow up some Syrians.
He gets cranky when we’re not bombing people…
You again? What now?
Enough snark. People are dying, I should be serious. Fair enough.
Then let us be serious.
Here’s the thing: We do need to take action in Syria.
The world needs to take action.
This atrocity has gone on long enough. More than long enough. The Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, has been killing its own people for as long as I can remember. As far back as when I was a junior Navy intelligence operator patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean, 30 years ago, and long before that.
So we do need to something. We’re all agreed on that.
Okay, well, maybe we’re not unanimous after all, but enough people agree on intervention that the guy in the White House, whoever he or she might be, feels pressure to do … something.
Politically, a politician in that position, be it Obama or Trump, has to do something.
Obama tried, despite the unpopularity of yet another war, despite the unwillingness of Republicans then (as opposed to Republicans now). But he made the mistake of asking Congress for permission.
Oh, it was the right thing to do, the Constitutional thing to do, asking Congress for permission.
But it was still a mistake.
Congress washed its bloody red hands of Syria. It’s not our problem they said, Syria hasn’t attacked us. Republicans were more concerned with sticking it to Obama than they were the slaughter of innocents. So they tried to tie Obama’s hands and then mocked him for his supposed inaction. And if that wasn’t enough, conservatives then tried to fence in those innocents being slaughtered in Syria, the ones who were trying to escape the horror which we allow to go unchecked, and then crowed about their supposed morality. Got to keep America safe they said.
So, in retrospect, it would be easy to say Obama didn’t do enough.
And in fact, plenty of people are saying exactly that. Such as an article yesterday in the New York Post by Michael Goodwin which details Obama’s complete and total failure to act in Syria.
[A]s measured by the loss of life and global impact, nothing compares with Obama’s failure in Syria. His refusal to lift a finger opened the door to perhaps the largest humanitarian crises since World War II.
The scope of Goodwin’s judgement is educational. As measured by the loss of life and global impact, nothing compares with Obama’s failure in Syria? Really? Nothing? Not even the failures of the guy who started a war based on false intelligence and had no plan for what happened after he ousted Saddam and which eventually gave rise to ISIS itself? What about 70 years of failed Middle Eastern foreign policy beginning with a newly minted CIA who in 1953 toppled the elected government of Iran and put the Shah on his throne and which led directly and inevitably to where we are today? It seems to me there’s enough blame to go around.
His refusal to lift a finger, says Goodwin.
Implying that Obama should have defied Congress and taken action, risking impeachment if necessary. He didn’t, and that part is on him. Right?
Except … that’s exactly what he did.
Obama did defy Congress and acted to the limits of his authority at the risk of impeachment.
In fact, the last year Barack Obama was president, his administration dropped an estimated twenty-six thousand bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq and the CIA spent roughly a billion dollars training Syrian rebels. Which is why a lot of the wacky far Left (along with the Right) called Obama a warmonger and why they were afraid Hillary Clinton would be too and thus they refused to vote for her. Far right Trump supporters and far left liberals alike seized on Clinton’s supposed hawkishness and declared with all due horror that if she was elected, she’d start a war in the first month of her presidency – and they called me a son of bitch right here on Stonekettle Station and on my various social media sites for suggesting Trump would be worse.
You all remember this, right?
Trump promised he’d come up with a plan for defeating ISIS. Great plan, Folks, gonna be so great.
“We are going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS. We have no choice.”
Sure, you remember that, right?
Now how, exactly, Trump plans on defeating the Islamic State without a war is utterly beyond me, but then he’s the guy who knows more about ISIS than the generals and I’m not.
And Trump made good on that promise.
Yes he did.
He didn’t promise to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days, he promised to convene the generals within 30 days and order them to come up with a plan.
And he did.
Or close enough.
On January 28, 2017, eight days after assuming office, Trump signed a presidential memorandum ordering “within 30 days, a preliminary draft of the Plan to defeat ISIS shall be submitted to the president by the secretary of defense.”
And 30 days later, on February 27th, 2017, The Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, along with the nation’s “top generals” met with Trump to discuss a preliminary plan.
The next day, Trump addressed Congress,
"As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS, a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians and men, and women and children of all faiths and all beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet."
Now, the particulars of the plan are naturally classified and nobody really knows what it is, other than Trump’s promise it’ll be great, Folks, just great. But given the primary architect is General James Mattis and the “top generals” one could reasonably assume it’ll be a military solution and not a diplomatic one.
You don’t want to call that war?
Fine by me. We called 58,000 dead American servicemen and 20 years in Vietnam a police action, so why not?
In the meantime, look around. Notice anything missing?
It’s been three days since the US fired 59 missiles at Syria.
What haven’t you seen?
The United States attacked a foreign country.
We attacked a sovereign nation without provocation.
Yes, we did.
That’s the President of the United States, the guy who ordered the attack.
It’s right there. Those are his words.
Attack. We attacked Syria. That’s what President Donald Trump said . We attacked Syria.
Not in self defense.
Not in defense of our allies.
Not a reprisal for an attack on our nation or people.
Not a response to some transgression against our national security.
Not part of a larger international mission in support of those caught in the middle.
Not an action sanctioned by the United Nations or a coalition forged to end the violence.
This wasn’t a single missile lobbed at a chemical weapons factory. This was an attack, a barrage of missiles fired in force at a sovereign country from US warships.
According to international law, an attack is an act of war.
The president of the United State just admitted to an act of war … via Twitter.
So, it’s been three days, Citizen. What haven’t you seen?
I asked that question on Twitter and it took more than a hundred responses before somebody figured it out.
Before somebody finally realized that the President has yet to formally address the nation.
I mean, we attacked another country, don't you find it odd that the guy who gave the order hasn't explained why to the American people?
Oh, sure, he informed Congress via memo and gave a brief prepared public statement from the golf course at Mar-a-Lago on the night of the attack:
My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.
It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail. Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.
But that’s not an explanation.
It sort of sounds like an explanation, but it’s not.
Let’s take it apart:
1. Trump says there is “no dispute” Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on “beautiful babies” and the children of God.
Actually, while there’s little disputing chemical weapons were used, there is some questions as to its origin. It’s possible that it didn’t come from the Assad regime.
Now, the odds are pretty high Assad did indeed use nerve gas on his own people, but Trump says there’s “no dispute.” No question.
Now, given that Donald Trump has a history of making definitive statements that later turn out to be somewhat less than evidence based, and given that he ordered an attack on a foreign nation based on this supposed non-disputed information, and given that attacking a Middle Eastern country tends to result in unexpected side effects (all bad) and increased terrorism in response – a consequence we might all have to suffer – and given that this might lead to war, don’t you think the President owes us a detailed explanation of this supposed evidence?
2. Trump ordered a military strike. He said it was “in the vital national interest of the United States” to deter and prevent the “spread” of chemical weapons.
So if disabling the airfield wasn’t the objective, then what was?
Look here, I don’t disagree that it’s in our national interest to deter the spread of chemical weapons. But we’ve been down this road before – I know, I was there when we invaded Iraq to prevent the use and spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember how that turned out? So I don’t think it unreasonable to expect the President to explain to the American people how exactly firing 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase that was warned in advance and essentially deserted and left undamaged and remains fully operational, how does that achieve this objective?
Honestly, how was this attack supposed to prevent the “spread” of chemical weapons?
And since the attack appears to be a wash, what now?
No, really, what now?
I mean, isn’t it still in our vital national interest to prevent the use and spread of WMDs?
So, if the attack failed to achieve that objective, then what do we do next?
And if somehow, despite reports, the attack did achieve the objective, well, isn’t that a victory for Trump and freedom and national security and shouldn’t we know?
Again, don’t you think we as Americans are entitled to know?
3. He called on other nations to – all “civilized” nations – to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
What’s that mean?
No, really, what does that mean?
Because it sounds an awful lot like a coalition. Like the kind we formed to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – especially when he followed it with that “may God have mercy on our souls” bit there at the end like Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact explaining how the mission to blow up the asteroid had failed and that we were all basically doomed – and given that Mad Dog Mattis is in charge of the plan, well, I think maybe some additional explanation is in order, don’t you?
I deliberately waited three days to write this, waiting to see if there was some detailed explanation forthcoming.
A Tweet or two doesn’t cut it.
Because we have been down this road, over and over and over.
You can’t drop democracy on people with a B-52.
We tried. We’ve been lobbing missiles or dropping bombs on Third World countries for 70 years now. Conservative presidents do it. Liberal Presidents do it. It’s not part of some larger long-term strategy to bring peace and freedom to the world, it might have been at one time but it sure isn’t now. It doesn’t work. It never works. But we keep doing it. Because we have the power and we don’t know what else to do.
And it’s getting worse.
Back in Korea and Vietnam, there was this nebulous strategy of “Containment.”
We had to contain the communists, lest the dominos fall and the Marxists take over the world.
We still had this vague idea that winning meant the conflict ended. Somebody, hopefully us, won.
But with every year that passed those already ambiguous objectives became even less defined until they were literally indeterminate.
And today we fight this endless, undefined, unending Global War on Terrorism that seemingly has no plan, no defined objectives, and no end point. It’s impossible to win. We lob missiles into other countries without even caring if they hit anything, because we can, because we don’t know what else to do, and a certain segment of our population cheers this as strength.
There’s no plan.
Oh, there are short term military goals. Sure. But there’s no larger strategic vision – not even one as simplistic as “contain the commies.”
Iraq is a perfect example of this.
We, the military, we did our duty.
We did our job with distinction.
We were in Baghdad in 28 days. We won the war and they did indeed cheer us in the streets.
And then it all went to hell.
Because there was no plan for after. There was no plan for peace. There was no plan for civilization. There was no plan for nation building. And so it all fell apart. You can’t just blow up a civilization, burn it to rubble, and expect liberty and stable government to spring from the ashes. But that’s exactly what we did expect.
And now things are worse.
And as a direct result, we’re looking at another war in Syria.
That’s the problem with revolutionaries, you know.
It’s easier to punch people in the face than to compromise with somebody you hate.
You ever ask yourself why one doesn’t “become president” by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or healing the sick?
You ever wonder why a man only “becomes president” by commanding the military into action?
I mean, war is easy.
It’s always easier to go to war than not.
War is always easier than diplomacy.
Burning it down is easy.
Destruction is easy.
Revolution is easy.
It’s far easier to be an arsonist than an architect.
It’s what comes after that’s hard. It’s feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, healing the sick that’s the hard part. And yet, that’s the part which makes war unnecessary in the first place.
Ironic, isn’t it? Trump invoked the Christian God of his followers as justification for a military strike.
“No child of God should ever suffer such horror […] We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed”
Ironic, isn’t it, that so many of the conservative Christians Trump is specifically addressing with those comments seem to miss that their God had to send his only begotten Son down here to teach that lesson, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick, because that’s the hard part. War? Destruction? We didn’t need any almighty deity in the sky to teach us about that. This god Trump speaks of as justification, that god didn’t send down the Archangel Gabriel to teach the generals how to war. Any mortal could figure that out. No, it was the other part, the part that comes after, that is so difficult it supposedly took direct intervention from God.
That’s the difference between Trump and the men who founded this country.
Trump is certainly no George Washington, no Thomas Jefferson (and please, no Benedict Arnold comments).
Hell, he’s not even Ronald Reagan. But that’s who they’re comparing him to today.
All I can say about this president is he has the instincts of Ronald Reagan in many ways. He’s an emotional man, but he’s also a very smart man.
-- Senator Lindsey Graham, to reporters following the Syria strike
And that’s the whole problem.
Trump has the instinct of Reagan coupled to the emotion of a revolutionary.
That quote, the one from Reagan at the top of this piece? Government is not the solution to our problem: government is the problem. That one?
Government is the problem.
That’s Trump. That’s the people who elected him. They invoke Reagan as justification for burning down government and lobbing missiles into the Middle East.
Except that’s not what Reagan said.
Well, it is, but that’s not all he said. You see, the entire quote goes like this:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem
In this present crisis.
Reagan was speaking to a specific problem, that is the economic malaise of his time. He was talking specifically about the economic philosophy of what would become known as Reaganomics. And while he was certainly a proponent of the traditional conservative principles of free markets and small government, he believed in good government as a fundamental foundation stone of civilization.
Reagan, whatever his flaws, wanted to be a nation builder and when he fired missiles into Libya, it was as part of a larger, well thought out strategy with specific objectives. Reagan, again whatever his flaws and agree with his methods or not, set in motion the process which led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Reagan, whatever his failings, had a powerful and cohesive vision.
Yes, unfortunately, side effects of Reagan’s strategy are many of the problems we face today in the Middle East. I’m not arguing that, or putting Reagan on a pedestal. Good or bad, what I’m saying is that Ronald Reagan was trying to build a better world for all – even if you and I might not agree with his vision, he had one.
Trump has none of Reagan’s vision and certainly none of the Founders’ intellect.
All he has is instinct.
Reagan fired missiles. So, Trump fires missiles and has no real understanding of why. And the proof is that he hasn’t even tried to explain his actions, because he himself doesn’t really understand why he did it or what it was supposed to accomplish.
Trump builds casinos, not nations.
And he’s largely surrounded himself with others who are similarly limited in vision and in intellect, all they have is an instinct for destruction.
It’s a council of bomb throwers.
For the Revolutionaries who forged America, war was a means to an end. And that end was a new and better nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle … well, maybe they fell a little short back then but, yeah, that. They were nation builders.
Two and half centuries later, we have become a nation of bomb throwers. Literally and figuratively.
For us, war is no longer a means to an end, it is the end. It’s what we do, endlessly.
We no longer even expect our leaders to explain why in any detail.
This is the natural end result of a mentality which believes
I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.
And the worst part is that Trump’s Syria attack is a metaphor for everything else.