Saturday, April 14, 2018


President Trump is afraid to do more in response to the recent Syrian chemical weapons attack than give the Assad government and its allies a love tap:
Mr. Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Mr. Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.
Trump and his partners agree on this course of relative restraint:
After Trump finished his seven-minute address, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron made separate announcements of British and French participation, stressing that the strikes were limited to Syrian regime chemical facilities, and had no wider goals....

Highlighting the limited nature of the raids – and the desire to avoid a dangerous escalation – the US defence secretary, James Mattis, said: “Right now this is a one-time shot”. The French defence minister, Florence Parly, said Moscow had been warned by France and its allies about the strikes beforehand.
On the ground, despite reports of some civilian casulaties, it's clear that the attack could have been worse:
In Damascus, there was defiance and relief as residents jolted awake by explosions at around 4 a.m. realized the strikes would be limited....

The strikes had been flagged so far in advance that Syria and its allies had plenty of notice to evacuate the likely targets of civilians and assets, possibly also including key components of the chemical weapons program, leaving it unclear how much of an impact they would have.

“Thank God this was less than we had feared. We were scared of a bigger assault that could be devastating, but we are happy it was limited and less powerful,” said Mayda Kumejian, a Damascus resident contacted by telephone. She described being jolted awake by explosions and the sound of jets roaring overhead.

“This strike is only muscle flexing by Trump to show his power,” she said. “Assad’s regime is much stronger now.”
That's what's been set in motion overseas -- a limited response that has been carefully constructed not to be overly offensive to its targets, and that came and went in an eyeblink.

Now look at America. It's insane here. The news cycle churns several times a day. We never know when there'll be a surprising new development in Robert Mueller's investigation or when Trump will fire someone or insult someone or incriminate himself in a tweet or on-camera rant.

So if you think Trump is wagging the dog (or "wagging the Prague") in order to drive bad domestic news out of the headlines, remember that it can't work for very long. On one hand, he and his partners don't want an attack on Syria that's sustained, which means that a week from now much of America literally won't remember that these strikes happened. On the other hand, big news happens so fast here that there'll probably be a dozen or more extra-bold red-siren headlines over the next several days -- many of them the result of Trump banishing the memory of this bombardment with his own words and deeds. If he were smart, he'd make a concerted effort not to drive the Syria news off the front pages with his own actions. But he's not smart. He'll probably step on his own story by creating another story, and then another and another. And if he doesn't, someone else -- Mueller, James Comey, a mass shooter -- undoubtedly will.

Wag the dog? Maybe -- but if so, the dog won't stay wagged.

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