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Trump’s Attack on Syria: An Illegal Piece of Choreographed Theater

The United States once more operates from a position of unmitigated hubris

U.S. President Donald Trump is flanked by National Security Advisor John Bolton as he speaks about the FBI raid at his lawyer Michael Cohen's office, while receiving a briefing from senior military leaders regarding Syria, in the Cabinet Room, on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation into the president's administration. (Photo:  Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

My take on the recent U.S. strike (in concert with a few European lackeys) on Syria is that it was carefully choreographed political theater where everyone performed to perfection the roles assigned them by Washington.  The supporting actors understood they had no choice but to watch the U.S. finesse its way out of a sticky situation.

The ostensible pretext for the attack remains the unsubstantiated allegation that Assad’s forces employed chemical weapons against militias in Douma. One reason we don’t know (and may never know)  the truth is that an international inspection team’s arrival in Douma was pre-empted by the U.S. attack.  Unable to provide any evidence for its claim, the United States had two choices: A) Admit to a “mistake,” an option that was never considered. B) Double down and attack Syria  but make it extremely limited.
 
In implementing option “B” Washington couldn’t risk provoking a serious military response from Russia or Iran so in the days preceding the attack, the Pentagon was in constant communication with Moscow to insure there would be no Russian casualties. Putin, in turn, warned Assad about the precise targeting and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the cruise missiles hit abandoned or marginally important sites. Of course, an errant missile would have been a different story but such are the calculated risks our rulers are willing to take in defense of empire.
 
Moscow’s initial reaction was a palpable sense of relief that the plan had worked. Russia also coyly noted that none of the missiles entered Russia’s air-defense zone, hence no need to respond. Following script, Moscow issued some pre-written denunciations for domestic consumption and Assad was shown strolling to his office on Saturday morning. For their part, the U.S. puppet masters can plausibly assume the American public will remain in the dark.
 
The attack was only marginally, if at all, about destroying chemical weapons. And it certainly didn’t demonstrate  any concern or compassion for Syrian citizens as only a tiny fraction of the half million deaths in that conflict can be attributed to chemical weapons.  Further, we know the U.S. has steadfastly refused admission to Syrian refugees.
 
Trump probably boosted his sagging poll numbers, temporarily placated those further to his right, won the praise he desperately craves from the media, tested some weapons, and gave the impression that he’s a “man of action.”  Whether intentional or not, the attack may also facilitate censorship, promote domestic conformity and intimidate some dissenters.

Finally, the United States operates from the following sense of unmitigated hubris: “Because we own the world we do whatever we choose. So, do as we say, or else.” Given a rising China and a resurgent Russia, this exaggerated sense of omnipotence may be the empire’s undoing. We would be well advised to prevent our rulers from taking us and the rest of the world down with them.

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Gary Olson

Gary Olson

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (NY: Springer, 2013.) Contact: olsong@moravian.edu

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