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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

If You See Something, Say Something

The Daily Escape:

Interior, Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain

But don’t say something if you haven’t seen it.

You have to wonder about what the Trump administration is thinking when it comes to foreign policy. On Monday night, the White House warned that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is preparing another chemical-weapons (CW) attack, and that if Bashar followed through with it, there will be “a heavy price” to pay.

The universal response was surprise, because no evidence was offered as proof of the claim.

And then UN Ambassador Nikki Haley weighed in:

You’ll notice she said “any” attacks will be blamed on Damascus, thus leaving the door wide open for someone to commit a “false flag” attack. When you long for John Bolton to return as UN Ambassador, you know things are very bad.

And initially, nobody had told the Pentagon or the State Department about the “plan” to go after Syria again:

  •  On June 27, Paul Pillar and Greg Thiemann warned on Defense One that President Trump was “cherry picking” intelligence to justify war on Iran, Syria’s ally, − in a replay of the Bush Administration’s propaganda campaign to justify the March, 2003 Iraq invasion.
  • Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis proposed that international observers should be posted at Syrian air bases to independently verify which type of munitions is being used by the Syrian Air Force. That is an idea that the US, Russia and Syria should agree with.

Defense Secretary Mattis was quoted by the BBC saying, “They didn’t do it.” Mattis’ face-saving claim was that the Trump warnings to Russia and Syria “worked” and that the Syrians no longer planned a new CW attack from Shayrat air base. Go, Donald!

Let’s unpack this: By acknowledging there are more CW in Syria, the Trump administration admits that intelligence exists to prove that claim. If the CW do exist, that violates the agreement Obama made with Putin after the 2013 attack on the Syrian city of Ghouta.

The deal with Putin was the justification Trump used to justify the Tomahawk strike at the Shayrat airbase in April. The administration said they had received intelligence indicating there were stockpiles of CW at the airbase, even though no actual proof was ever provided that CW were really present.

In fact, Seymour Hersh published a lengthy account in Die Welt this week based on conversations with US officials, debunking the idea that Syria was behind the April CW attack. Hersh warned that the US was setting the stage for another “false flag” attack by the jihadists, to be blamed on the Syrian government. Here are three questions:

  1. What is the Administration’s source of the new Syrian CW intelligence?
  2. What hard evidence has the source given about a Syrian CW stockpile?
  3. Since Trump decided to blurt (via Spicer) that Syria was planning more CW attacks, why didn’t he simply claim that Assad is keeping a stock of chemical weapons in violation to the agreement Putin made with Obama? After all, Mattis has already admitted that much.

And this, from NY Mag:

Plenty of critics…saw this as a Wag the Dog scenario of made-up intelligence. But…Syria is a dog that can wag its own tail, and ours too if we let it. And if the Trump White House is issuing ultimatums that its own national-security team doesn’t want to take full responsibility for, based on intelligence that is too secret to share with mid-level staff…chances are it’s not fully briefed on how that wagging tail will affect key players like Russia and Iran.

Isn’t it interesting that Trump’s response to the “intelligence” that Russia hacked the election is “show me the proof”. But when he says, “Syria is about to use CW again”, it requires no proof?

That’s beyond cynical.

What is our Syria strategy? If the Administration is thinking about launching another attack on Syria, we have to ask: what are we doing? Most Americans accept that we should fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

But, is the Trump administration doing anything to end our role in Syria that isn’t about transforming it into a war with Russia and Iran?

Some music: Here is Artists for Grenfell, fifty artists, including Nile Rodgers, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Liam Payne, the London Community Gospel Choir, and others, who teamed up to re-make Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as a charity single in memory of the Grenfell Tower fire:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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February 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(London library during the Blitz)

Politico reports that President Trump has actually done little since entering office despite White House aide Stephen Miller’s bragging on the Sunday Pundits:

We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.

That simply isn’t true, but the thrust of the article is that, when you tune out the noise coming from the White House, very little has actually happened. From Politico:

So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.

Sorry, but this is characteristic of the gleeful DC narrative that Trump is failing, that he’s bumping up against the institutional/Constitutional realities of Washington. This meme seems to repeat the same mistakes that smart people made during the campaign — misreading and underestimating Trump. They see him challenged on a few things and assume that since Trump thought he’d show up, wave a wand, and make things happen immediately, and is now stymied, therefore he must be frustrated. They presume that clashes with other branches of government, or with the unfawning press, or the “resistance” from the 52% that didn’t vote for him to begin with, has made him cool his jets.

Why should we think it upsets him that his first bolts out of the gate are stymied?

Wrongo thinks that so far, Trump is winning. His fights with what he calls “the Establishment” and the “fake news media” are a win from the perspective of the Trumpets. They figure that’s what he was sent to DC to do.

If he’s not trying to learn the ropes? That goes in the plus column. And if it’s reported that he shows impatience or impulsiveness? Plus column. To his base, the furor in the media makes the infuriated ones, and those who report it, seem like smug elitists, determined to enforce the status quo through the usual DC tactics.

Really, everything Politico says are problems for Trump are the opposite. He’s ginned up a national hissy fit over his ill-conceived Executive Order on immigration, while managing to mostly get his cabinet choices confirmed (sorry Mr. Pudzer) − a cabinet more radical and unqualified than any traditional Republican would dare to nominate.

Dems obsess over each offense and announce “resistance” but have no real strategy. They raise money but can do little, while being viewed as unseemly in Trump’s flyover country.

When the Republican obstruction to Obama took shape in 2008, they assumed a posture of cooperation, only to be “disappointed” by the “extreme” positions of the President. Rarely in Obama’s first term did they announce obstruction in advance of his actions. By his second term, Democrats had lost enough seats that they no longer had the ability to override Republican inertia, and the GOP’s naked obstruction was visible.

Now Democrats have fewer votes as a minority party than the GOP had in 2016, and have no way to block anything but the most obnoxious Trump moves, assuming that a few Senate Republicans join in the blockage.

Trump has no need to figure out or to get along with Washington — in fact, that’s the opposite of what he wants. He has staked his political fortune on an “own the mob” strategy — which worked just fine in November. He doesn’t need to deliver on his election promises. He needs to let Republicans push through the horrifying agenda they’ve salivated over for decades. And he will.

He needs a riled up Establishment to blame for any stymied efforts. This means the more cartoonish his behavior the better, as the Establishment will be all too happy to jump on his missteps.

Trump won’t suffer if he never comes up the learning curve.

The rest of us, the country, the world, will. We actually need things to work.

Here is Robert Cray with “Smoking Gun” recorded in 1986. With all the Trump people who seem to be on the wrong side of the CIA and FBI, it seems appropriate:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample Lyric:

I’m havin’ nasty nasty visions,

And baby you’re in every one.

 

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