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Trump’s Syria Strategy

This Week in the Narrative 112

Nigel Clarke

On December 20th, President Trump somewhat shockingly announced plans to pull American troops out of Syria.

Across mainstream media, from Fox News to MSNBC, and among establishment politicians, Democrat, and Republican alike, the response came in near uniformity … against the decision.

It’s not that Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria necessarily holds up to closer scrutiny. First, 2200 troops hardly constitute a major reduction in American global military involvement which sees over 1 million stationed around the world. ISIS, whatever that constitutes at this point, is not defeated, despite whatever ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner the President chooses to fly. As always, further involvement will likely be deemed necessary in the not too distant future. And it certainly isn’t that Trump is some sort of peace President, that he isn’t a militaristic, inflammatory force promoting record military spending and rising tensions across the globe.

Rather, it is that for those who believe themselves to be, or at least present themselves as, the anti-war left, this appears a rare opportunity to relish in the fact that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Yet for many, those Clintonites, Beto Backers, and Biden Bros ensconced so deeply in military-industrial complex propaganda that they couldn’t reason their way out of a paper bag, the response to the decision to withdraw troops has been vitriolic rejection. They angrily surmise the decision must have been made at the behest of the Russians, and lament the fact Trump is not listening to the type of ‘experts’ who brought us Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others. The military beehive is an angry one when poked.

Mark Twain (allegedly) said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” So rather than attempting to do the latter, rather than once again wading hopefully into the waters of Russian conspiracy or sifting through the neoconservative records of long-time faux-liberal legislators, instead consider seriously why Trump might have made the decision, just what type of strategy the President might be attempting to enact.

But why? I don’t care about his strategy, I hate him and just want him out.

Establishment Democrats have a problem in which they display without interruption a derisive arrogance right up until the moment they snap into a helpless, childlike naivete. For a year prior to the 2016 election, progressives told these establishment Democrats they would not support the anointed party candidate if they were cheated and ignored; they did this through social media hashtags like #BernieOrBust, #DemExit, and #NeverHillary, through protests at the Democratic National Convention, through supporting major university studies and Wikileaks revelations which revealed Democratic Party corruption. Yet, the day after the election, establishment Democrats appeared in pie-eyed bewilderment asking, ‘where were all the progressives who were supposed to vote for Hillary?’

This week, Trump released his first official campaign ad for 2020, meaning, apparently campaign season is officially open. Examine the President’s decision to pull troops out of Syria through this spectrum, of the 2020 campaign, and of Trump’s potential Democratic challengers.

Picture a debate between Trump and essentially any establishment-backed Clinton Democrat challenger. The challenger would like to call Trump “unhinged”, “dangerous”, unfit to be Commander in Chief. To this, Trump has constructed a scenario in which he can respond that it is his Democratic challenger who has supported costly and never-ending war in the Middle East, while he is the person who brought the troops home.

It doesn’t matter that it is both statistically and anecdotally untrue to try to paint Trump as less warmongering than his predecessors. It is simply that Trump has created for himself a snappy rebuttal to one of his opponent’s most poignant attacks, a rebuttal which provides a talking point with the potential to resonate amongst those disinclined to examine an issue in-depth, particularly within those undecided and quasi-independent voter groups — upper-middle-class people in the suburbs, the mythical  ‘white woman,’ and so on — which are crucial to any President’s election.

Put a different way, what Trump is doing as he constructs his 2020 campaign, understanding as he does that the need for nuance is less important at this point than zingers and earworm one-liners, is constructing a situation where he will attempt to run on the left of the presumed Democratic challenger on certain issues.

Dear Clinton Democrats: Donald Trump … THE Donald Trump … is planning on running to the left of your candidate on war, something which should probably tell you all you need to know about your candidate.

But it is not just Syria and war where Trump has been laying this foundation.

Picture a debate between Trump and Joe Biden. Say old “Scranton Joe” comes out steaming and calls Trump a racist. This week, President Trump signed into law a new, bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, intended to replace old legislation which was widely seen as disproportionately, grotesquely, and perhaps intentionally harmful to communities of color, legislation which was, in fact, written by Joe Biden in the 1990s.

In the stupefied world of one-liner politics, it doesn’t matter that Trump had nothing to do with the new legislation besides offering his signature at the end, nor that the new legislation does not go nearly far enough, according to some. It doesn’t even matter that the Trump administration has crafted and made racist policies and decisions from day one. When Biden calls Trump racist, he will simply smirk and say, ‘how, when I overturned your racist legislation?’

Further, notice that Trump seems to be putting the wheels in motion to make federally legalized marijuana part of his 2020 platform, and then consider a contest against any of the potential Democratic frontrunners up to their ears in pharmaceutical company campaign contributions. These are people who are likely not afforded the possibility of supporting legalized pot, since it directly contrasts with the desires of their donors.

It doesn’t matter that the Trump administration has been unusually harsh on low-level drug offenders, or that without progressive input the pot industry becomes just another harmful capitalist cash-grab. It’s that Clinton Democrats, again outflanked, allow Trump to create an ‘in’ with moderates and usually apathetic stoners. (And just ask Justin Trudeau how valuable that ‘in’ can be with the latter).

Look, it’s not about defending a broken clock because it’s right twice a day. It is simply about recognizing what the President is up to, so as to not again appear whimpering and wide-eyed the morning after election day.


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Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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