During the campaign, a lot of enthusiastic Donald Trump supporters would claim, when the wisdom of his tactics was questioned, that Trump was playing 3D chess while Hillary Clinton and her sycophants in the mainstream media were playing 2D chess or even checkers. While I never doubted Trump’s powers of persuasion, I generally avoided the 3D chess claim, because I was, quite frankly, torn between whether he was a genius who was several steps ahead of the game or whether he was just the right guy at the right time who was making it up as he went along. I won’t swear that I never made the 3D chess claim in some moment of enthusiasm, lest someone dig it up, but I was never sold on the idea that that is what we were witnessing. My hunch was always that he was the right man at the right time who was flying by the seat of his pants and succeeding by the sheer force of his personality.
The problem with the 3D chess claim is that, like a conspiracy theory, it is difficult to falsify. The claim that Trump has made a misstep can always be chalked up to us not really understanding the depths of his machinations. This framework can potentially paper over and serve as a justification for actual missteps, the same way evidence of the non-existence of a particular conspiracy serves as more confirmation of its existence in the minds of certain individuals.
Trump’s decision to launch missiles at Syria in response to very questionable reports that the Assad regime used chemical weapons has caused great consternation among some of Trump’s previously most supportive base. For many of Trump’s most intense base, his promise of a more “America first” foreign policy that eschews regime change and pledges less international meddling was one of the, if not the, primary reason they supported him and viewed him as a genuine alternative to the status quo.
Among diehard Trump supporters, however, there remains a contingent who wants to chalk the bombing of Syria up as just another 3D chess move by the master. The reasoning goes that the missile strike was mostly symbolic and inflicted little real damage, as the Russians were reportedly warned ahead of time. With the strike Trump supposedly puts the Russia puppet charge to rest, calls off the neocon and Deep State dogs for a while, earns friendly media coverage with what was essentially a meaningless gesture that doesn’t necessarily draw us deeper into the conflict in Syria. This, of course, assumes that it won’t drag us deeper into the conflict.
Before we even get to why this was a colossal strategic blunder, there are a few little matters that need to be addressed. One, the strike was illegal. It does not meet the criteria outlined in the War Powers Resolution for when a President can act without Congressional approval. It was also unconstitutional. Some of us still cling to the quaint idea that we should actually follow the Constitution. Raining missiles on a sovereign nation is clearly an act of war. The Constitutional power to declare war lies with Congress, not the President. And then there’s the little issue that people died because of this illegal and unconstitutional act. While the missile attack doesn’t appear to have inflicted a lot of damage, the Syrians are claiming there were some casualties. Estimates I’ve seen range from 7 to 15. While that isn’t a lot relative to such things, killing people is still kinda big deal, and a large price to pay for a “gesture” to call off the pro-war hounds. If the President really needs a gesture that bad to keep the globalist hounds at bay, I have a suggestion. Maybe he could fire the CIA.
Those minor trivialities aside, even if this was just a “show of force” gesture, that seems to have succeeded to some degree in bringing about the changes mentioned above, it was still a huge mistake because it ceded the other side’s narrative. First of all, I don’t for a second believe Assad was actually responsible for the gas attack if there even was one. It makes no sense. The civil war has been turning in Assad’s favor and the U.S. had just stated it no longer sought his ouster. The rebels, on the other hand, have every reason to draw the U.S. and the West into the conflict on their side. Why does anyone believe that Assad was responsible anyway? Because the mainstream media says so? Because our intelligence community, which was openly engaged in a soft coup attempt against Trump, assures us it’s true.
And this attack is in the context of the alleged Ghouta gas attack in 2013 that was later determined to almost certainly be a false flag carried out by Turkey in an effort to appear to cross President Obama’s “red line” and drag the U.S. further into the conflict. Seymour Hersh made the case that Ghouta was a Turkish false flag in this exhaustive report. It says all you need to know about the desire of the mainstream media to maintain the current narrative regarding Syria that a renowned liberal investigative journalist like Hersh had to publish such a blockbuster report in the London Review of Books.
In light of all this, it strikes me that the default assumption regarding the most recent alleged chemical weapons attack should be that it is a false flag until definitively proven otherwise, and that doesn’t mean because the mainstream media and the intelligence agencies (an increasingly redundant distinction) say so.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration quickly released a statement essentially taking for granted that Assad was behind the attack. This is not 3D chess. This is losing your queen to a pawn. The Trump Administration, instead of using the opportunity of the press release to call the opposition’s narrative into question, enthusiastically echoed it. I recall Trump being asked about the previous Syrian gas attack in one of the debates, and I was disappointed at the time that he didn’t raise the false flag claim then, but I remember brushing it off as either he wasn’t aware of the allegation or thinking maybe he just didn’t want to make waves. (We non-interventionists were always counting on Trump to be better on foreign policy based on his instincts and worldview rather than his specific knowledge of the situation.)
It is certainly possible that Trump really believes Assad was behind the attack, and it is at least plausible that Assad actually was responsible even though that scenario makes no sense for him. This is another reason why the missile attack was such a mistake. Even if we did know with absolute certainty that there was a gas attack and Assad was responsible, the U.S. still shouldn’t have done anything about it. Syria is not our fight. We need to disengage for Syria and the Middle East in general, not amp up our involvement. Policing the world is not putting America first which is the foreign policy Trump promised us. Trump’s actions reinforce the opposition’s narrative that the U.S. is somehow responsible for a business that takes place in sovereign countries half the world away.
Trump supporters who are upset with his actions in Syria need to encourage him to get back on track and stick to his promise to avoid meddling abroad and focus on our security at home, not cling to the myth that everything the man does is 3D chess that is just too inscrutable for us peons to understand.
Dan Phillips, MD, [send him mail] is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia.
Previous article by Dan Phillips, MD.: Steak and Ketchup