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Syria Missile Strike

My quick thoughts on Trump's missile attack on the Syrian airbase which Assad launched a despicable chemical weapons attack from:

Trump's attack was a pretty moderate, normal, mainstream thing to do.

It was OK, not great.

It's not what Trump said he'd do. E.g. in 2013 Trump wrote a bunch of tweets about staying out of Syria.

I'd prefer if Trump focused on his campaign promises more – destroy ISIS, get out of the Iran deal, build the wall, repeal Obamacare, and move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. None of those issues are going very well so far.

There's a selective attention issue. Why is this the right conflict to intervene in instead of a different one?

Trump and others haven't explained the self-interest of the attack in a clear, convincing way. What are the big-picture goals we're hoping to achieve by intervening? Spending $75,000,000 to help a few foreigners in the short term is bad policy which is contrary to the purpose of the US government and the purpose of our taxes.

Most people believe military actions should be proportional. That's wrong. They should involve whatever force is necessary for effective defense and resolving the problem.

It's bad to get drawn into back-and-forth tit-for-tat conflicts with only minor escalations. Ongoing fighting is awful. Instead, take little or no action until you're ready to go all-out and win. Trump's strike isn't anything like a last warning or second-to-last warning. It was just a response and Trump has threatened to do more small responses if Assad behaves badly again. That's a bad approach. (But note also that it's a moderate, mainstream approach. I'm the one who is out of the mainstream in my views here.)

If you're going to get involved in military conflict at all, there should be a plan to win in a fast, brutal, one-sided, non-proportional manner which is either pursued immediately or else threatened and ready. If you're just bluffing and have no plan for winning, stay out of it.


Elliot Temple on April 10, 2017

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