There are many great political movies going back to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. “All the President’s Men”, “Being There”, “The Candidate”, and “The Manchurian Candidate”. None of them raises a smile to the face of a politics junkie like “Wag the Dog”. The plot is sure to raise the eyebrows of those not familiar with the Robert DeNiro/Dustin Hoffman classic.
A couple of weeks prior to his reelection vote, the President is caught up in a sex scandal with an underage girl. In order to distract the electorate from this bombshell, the President’s advisers create a fictional war in Albania. A host of plot twists and turns follows, but eventually the President is reflected. The film came out just prior to the Monika Lewinsky scandal, with some claiming President Clinton’s bombing of Sudan soon after was a “Wag the Dog” attempt on Clinton’s part, and he was making an effort to change the news narrative from his own sex scandal to his military action.
The question today is whether Donald Trump has fired cruise missles into a forewarned and abandoned military airstrip in Syria to deflect the three investigations into his possible treasonous relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. There are a number of factors that would lead to that conclusion.
Trump claims to have been moved to this attack by seeing pictures of children dying from a saran gas attack on television. Historically, Trump has opposed military intervention into Syria at each and every opportunity. Previously, President Obama considered military intervention into Syria in 2013 after a saran gas attack on Syrian civilians by the Syrian government. Congress denied Obama’s request for authorization. At that time Trump tweeted a number of statements all of which were anti Syrian action and stated specifically that Obama must get Congressional approval before he did so. A reasonable person would not find it credible when later he did EXACTLY what he criticized President Obama for considering. Similar horrific images of children dying from gas attacks in Syria were shown at this earlier time, yet Trump didn’t seem to mind.
Trump’s so called “Travel Ban” specifically prohibited refugees from Syria. Trump was even quoted as saying that he would look at Syrian children trying to come to the US and tell them to their faces that they weren’t welcome in America. Thee quotes are not what someone would expect from a person with a heart. Then there is the Putin factor.
Trump is such a fanboy of Russian Leader Vladimir Putin that they are seemingly joined at the hip. Putin is working hard in Syria to rescue the current government from the raging Civil War there. Syria is a Russian puppet and is strategically located for Russian interventionism. Russian troops are currently in Syria. An American strike would potentially endanger them. Putin would be angry. But now, contradictory statements are coming out.
The Russians were warned of the strike in advance according to most media outlets. They in fact told the Syrians AND the Iranians who also have troops in Syria. This notification allowed the occupants of the air base to leave and take their valuable planes and munitions with them. Now how angry could Putin be with an American missle strike to what was essentially an abandoned air strip. There is no strategic reason for the strike. It at best merely established that the United States has missles it will use against abandoned runways in Syria.
Trump has rarely made sense. It is up to the citizenry to make sense of his actions. The only thing we can be relatively certain of is that Trump using a Syrian airstrip for target practice goes against all his statements and prior actions on the subject. It is a reasonable conclusion that he had another motive. History will decide as to Trump’s real motive, but its certainly not based on military stratege or on raw motion.
It makes sense for Trump to try a serious diversion. The hellhounds of Congress and the FBI are on his trail. His White House Staff is in shambles. He has appointed ONE individual to the Department of State. He has appointed ONE individual to the Department of Defense. He relies on his family for advice, not any institutional experts. Changing the strategy and “wagging the dog” is reasonable and is probably likely. It is a sad state of affairs when Presidents rely on dark humored movies for their statecraft. Wagging the dog makes sense in an America whose government makes no sense.