After raining Syria with Tomahawk missiles and sending a naval fleet towards the Korean peninsula, Donald Trump proudly took responsibility for dropping the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan.
In just one week, the president of the United States of America successfully transformed himself from a businessman-cum-president to a war-mongering machine. There may exist a difference of opinion when it comes to the future of the Syrian president, but hardly anyone would disagree that Daesh should be rooted out and peace should prevail in the Korean peninsula.
A close analysis of the US action in Syria raises a number of questions: Why were these Tomahawk missiles not launched in 2013 when the Syrian regime was accused of killing some 1,400 civilians in a Sarin gas attack near Damascus? And was this action so insignificant that in his first interview after launching the cruise missiles, Trump couldn’t even correctly recall that it was Syria, not Iraq, that was subjected to his military might? If tackling Isis was so crucial for the US, why didn’t the Trump administration take a lead in repulsing the terrorists from Iraq and Syria? Why did it leave that to the poorly-equipped armies of those countries to do the job? No surprise then that this inaction also opened a clear field for Iran and Hezbollah to regain lost ground.
Until recently, Trump was an inward-looking president determined to putting ‘America First’. Many had believed that as a successful billionaire entrepreneur, he would try to make America great again by focusing on the economy. They are shocked that by opening up three fronts in just one month, Trump has opted to walk the path laid by his Republican and Democrat predecessors. So, who is calling the shots? At least looking at Trump’s star-studded cabinet where 8 of the 24 members have served on the military, one can guess who the real commander-in-chief is. Politicians may argue that by opting for the military path, Trump has not lost everything yet. At least he has proved that when it comes to standing up against Putin, the man he has appreciated for making Russia great again, he won’t have a second thought. He has also built on his campaign rhetoric of going all out against Isis.
Trump can be flexible to the new realities of the White House but it is unimaginable for Putin to lose ground. The war has cost Moscow monetarily. But in real politik, Moscow has just paid pennies to get a good deal done. By defending the small Middle-Eastern country, Russia has established itself as a real challenger to the only superpower. By steering a crippled economy under sanctions, Putin has also tried to emerge as a visionary. With presidential election due next year, it’s time for him to redeem all the benefits. Losing Syria will not only reduce Russia to its former comparatively insignificant position, it will also paint it as an unreliable partner to those Moscow is proudly pushing to stand against the US.
Putin knows that his failure will inspire the winner. The free falling of the Middle Eastern regimes will pick up pace yet again and the US may opt to invade another Russian ally, Iran. Chechnya and some other Muslim-dominated regions may see turmoil, and terrorist incidents across Russia may rise. Still it seems the Russian president will not miss the opportunity of dealing with the real Trump – a leader who had vowed to even work with him “in the fight against Isis”. Putin will always cherish that Trump had labelled Barack Obama “the founder” and “crooked” Hillary Clinton “the co-founder of Isis”.
Trump may call himself a champion against Daesh, but is the US serious about tackling this monster? Hamid Karzai has doubts. Condemning the US bombing in Nangarhar, Karzai has said, “This is ... most brutal misuse of our country as a testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.” Was this weapon unleashed only to send signals to Kim Jong-un, whom once Trump was willing to meet, possibly over hamburgers? Or did it carry any warning for Iran?
Even if the answer is in the affirmative, the US can no more attack the ‘axis of evil’ in the near future. Come what may, China will defend North Korea, and Russia will stand with Iran as it did with Syria. Some blind Indians may call such a strike an eye-opener for Pakistan. But this wishful thinking will lead to further day-dreaming that the US will call for tough measures against extremists directed against Delhi.
The surgical strike against Bashar’s forces, the symbolic attack against Isis and the fleet directed towards Korea simply signal that the military is gaining ever more ground in the United States where even a Nobel Peace Prize holder was reduced to igniting civil war in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and some other countries. These operations only reduced the stature of a popular president.
In one sentence, Trump has fulfilled his campaign promise that ‘the time for empty talk is over and I will transfer power from Washington and give it back to you’. Here only the meaning of ‘you’ has changed. It no more stands for the American people but for Pentagon. Pakistanis who have, over the decades, seen civilian control slipping are not shocked. Hats off to those who carry the political cross for the sins of those who crucify them in the name of national interest.
The writer is a senior journalist
associated with Geo News.