Did some misguided souls seriously believe that Donald Trump would be a less warlike President than Hillary Clinton? Well now we know. This intellectually-challenged POTUS, whose grasp of policy is so feeble that he can be turned around by a ten minute conversation, is an impetuous bully and clearly loves to show off. Hence his dropping of the “mother of all bombs” MOAB on Afghanistan. The objective, we are told, is to send a message to North Korea – and anyone else – that America has the biggest bombs and is prepared to use them.
As he reverses policy on Nato, China, Syria and everything else, President Trump is beginning to behave like a character from the Sopranos who has to show just how tough he is to get respect. It is a puerile and dangerous insecurity, and it is no exaggeration to say that this threatens the peace of the world. Trump seems incapable of articulating a clear strategic philosophy behind his military adventures. His missile strike on Syria came only weeks after he’d said President Assad was the best hope of defeating Islamic State, and that America had no interest any longer in removing him. Now suddenly the talk is again of regime change in the Middle East. American foreign policy has undergone a handbrake turn.
It was naïve to believe that this bellicose confrontationalist, whose first act was to massively boost military spending, wasn’t going to use the forces at his disposal. Mr Trump is a gunslinger. He shoots from the hip. The President didn’t bother to consult Congress about launching an attack on a sovereign state which poses no threat to the US. Nor did he seek to win the support of the United Nations as his George W Bush did before Iraq. Yet, this is the first direct military intervention by America in Syria.
Vladimir Putin has also been blind-sided by Trump. I don’t know if the Russian President connived in Mr Trump’s election by spreading disinformation about Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if the Russian FSB has “kompromat” intelligence on Mr Trump involving bizarre sexual practices in a Moscow hotel. No one really does. But what we do know is that Mr Putin is an authoritarian, like Mr Trump, and an opportunist. He thought he could do business with a president who is not unlike the Russian oligarchs that put Mr Putin in power.
Well, now he knows too. By attacking Russia’s proxy in Syria, and risking killing Russian military personnel in the process, Mr Trump has at a stroke dispelled the claims that he is in Mr Putin’s pocket. The press in America is too fond of conspiracy theories to see the truth about Mr Trump, which is that he is a street-corner bully rather than a devious statesman.
He lacks any kind coherent political outlook apart from the crude business ethics expounded in The Art of the Deal. He isn’t in the business of forming strategic alliances. There’s little doubt that his campaign team had frequent contacts with Russian businessmen and diplomats, but it was about material gain rather than geo-politics; the main chance rather than the great game.
The UK government and large sections of the press celebrated Donald Trump’s resolve in launching a reprisal against President Assad’s alleged chemical assault on rebels in Khan Sheikhun. There was much talk of his “moral clarity” as opposed to the vacillation of the Obama administration. “Mr Trump’s actions speak louder than his tweets”, opined the Sunday Times, suggesting he’s a man of action who should be judged on his instinctive grasp of the “right thing to do”.
Well following the MOAB, there is less celebration in the press and more concern for the future peace of he world. We are only a tweet away from Armageddon. Mr Trump is capable of having several contradictory policies before breakfast, broadcast to the world through social media. It is disturbingly possible that his main purpose in launching the Syrian intervention was to show visiting Chinese President Xi how tough he is. The missile attack on Sharyat airfield in Syria took place as the pair were sitting down for dinner at Mar a Lago.
It is remarkable how an act of war can divert attention from problems of domestic policy. The failure to replace Obamacare, the immigrant ban, farce of the “beautiful wall” is suddenly in the background. War simplifies the messy business of politics and focuses the nations attention on an agenda set by the president. War and Mr Trump were made for each other. This is surely only the beginning.