Thursday, April 06, 2017

Show Time for the Commander-In-Chief

What a fabulous day to impress Core Leadership of Chinese Communist Party:

- Donald Trump hosts Xi Jinping and his wife at the glittering Mar-a-Lago;

- Donald Trump basks in the glory of Gorsuch confirmation all delivered by Republican Senators by busting the Democratic filibuster;

Pretty impressive. Donald is winning, winning and winning. Great way of pressurizing China, by exposing her inability to explode bombs anywhere on the globe by a simple click of a button. Let us see if Xi yields Donald anything or like a seasoned politician just withers away Donald's good day.

The truth is Donald has been a wounded beast for weeks, searching desperately for a 'win'. Exploding few 'bombs' in distant places is always an easy route available for an American President. 

President Trump's missile attack on Assad regime is justified. Sure, there is no UN Resolution for that. But Assad went a step too far to use Chemical Weapons. To leave him without any type of consequences is simply accepting a total breakdown of the global order. That Trump refuses to completely discard the existing global order is a big, big statement given that his campaign has been an insurgency against the established order. Needless to say, it is all work of seasoned players like Defense Sec. Gen. Mattis, NSC Advisor Gen. McMaster and others in Trump's strong security cabinet (devoid of Bannon now). President Trump has done well in enforcing consequences when an errant dictator crosses the red line.

But the tough part comes after this 'shock and awe'. All said and done, Trump has not completed his homework here. There is no 'well articulated Syrian policy' from this Administration. What happens the 'day after' and how does Trump Administration want to manage the Syrian Conflict is very critical. There is no room for 'hold your cards to your chest' style Trumpian negotiations in this highest order poker game. Trump Administration must articulate what is the 'end game' here. Is removal of Assad the eventual goal or just to stop him from using Chemical Weapons is the objective? 

It needs to be made clear that Trump Administration is entirely willing to play the hardball with Putin's Russia while Putin's Client Assad is pummelled mercilessly.[1] Trump Administration must be fully ready for emboldened ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Iran because of these attacks. We are in the familiar territory of Bush's Iraq quagmire. 

Donald Trump has shown sufficient instincts in not going the way of Bush's Iraq War. There is no appetite among today's Republicans or American Public to fund another entanglement in the Middle-East. But Obama Administration also showered missiles on Libya to remove Gaddafi, and in the end, the world landed with a failed state of Libya. 

So it is far more critical what happens next. Would Trump Administration quickly develop a coherent policy for the end game in Syria or the same 'on the fly' approach of Trump Administration is at play here? For an American President, it is much, much easier to conduct military fireworks in far away places; but dealing with consequences is far difficult. Especially when your foreign policy homework is still work in progress.


[1] As Vladimir Putin starts to internalize that Trump Administration is no friend of 'his interests', we are likely to see some explosive 'kompromat' against Donald Trump coming out; provided it exists. If no such compromised information gets revealed and Trump continues to be tough to Russia; he wins the politics of his RussiaGate scandal. The fact that Trump is willing to risk any such compromising revelation by Putin is a big political win for Donald Trump. Democrats will have to up their game in that case - just playing anti-Trump card will not be sufficient.

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