Putting together several of the news articles in Lowell’s News Summary of this morning, what comes into focus for me is the great danger we place ourselves in, as a nation, by having sent Donald Trump the message that the best way for him to get applause is to take military action.
He’s a guy who already shows a proclivity to pick fights. His main mode of relating is to go on the attack. (Whom has he not attacked, who opposed him in any way?)
He lacks any kind of strategic vision, and perhaps even the capacity to take in enough knowledge to plot a strategy. He acts impulsively, and is not a “look before you leap” sort of guy. And we know, he is all about Donald Trump, and feeding his ego.
His action in Syria, as many have noted, entailed a sudden and complete reversal from the stance he (and his Secretary of State) were taking just days before. The reasons for the reversal are less than clear. (The poison gas attack was not such a complete departure from what they’d been willing to turn a blind eye toward, just prior to this reversal.) Nobody knows what’s next– including, most likely, Trump himself.
Hitting the Syrian regime in this “measured” way might well have been the right move. (The approval of some major allies — such as Angela Merkel in Germany — is a favorable sign.) But we have no reason to be confident that, right move or not, Trump made it for the right reasons.
To see how dangerous this is, consider these two points:
1) The situation in North Korea is far more dangerous, and far more important to American national interests. And, more and more, it is coming to a head. This is not a situation in which we want our commander-in-chief to act in a way that is simultaneously militarily aggressive and impulsive (rather than carefully thought out). The chances for a catastrophe of major proportions — with a nuclear-armed adversary run by a leader who is apparently a paranoid, maybe psychopathic nut-job — are too great. (Gaming out war against the North Koreans yields estimates of deaths in the six digits, and the destruction of Seoul, just for starters.)
Maybe this display of willingness to pull the trigger will have a salutary effect on the Chinese, leading them to put more pressure on the North Koreans. Maybe that will yield better options for the United States than any now visible. But if it doesn’t, then the next, second point reveals how dangerous it is that most of the press and political leaders have applauded Trump for his Syrian strike.
2) Trump has been failing and flailing, and not getting the adulation and applause he so clearly craves. He is just experiencing his first major uptick in months, and no doubt he understands from this how reflexively Americans applaud a commander-in-chief who strikes at an enemy. At least in the short run.
There are plenty of reasons to withhold applause for this move, given the total incoherent context in which Trump made it.; But instead the applause has come.
And we should worry about where that unfortunate American reward system — in combination with the particular set of defects in this president — will take us next.