April 14, 2017 – CAUTION

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While the country is filled with high fives from the right and the left for Trump’s attack on Syria, some of our favorites are suggesting notes of caution. Here’s Craig Pirrong, The Streetwise Professor.

President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base that was allegedly the launching point of a sarin attack on a town in the Idlib  Governate. My initial take is like Tim Newman’s: although the inhumanity in Syria beggars description, getting involved there is foolish and will not end well.

The Syrian conflict is terrible, but Syria makes the snake pit in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom look hospitable. …

… To put it slightly differently. Good intentions mean nothing. Results and consequences do. I am at a loss to think of any policy with results and consequences that accord with good intentions. Indeed, it almost inevitable that any major military intervention would not save Syrian lives but would cost American ones.

Truth be told, given the devastation wreaked on children, women, and men in Syria by bombs, shells, small arms and even throat-slashing blades, chemical weapons do not represent a quantum shift in the horribleness of the Syrian war. Dead is dead, and periodic use of chemical weapons does not materially affect the amount of dying that is going on. Assad–and the Islamists he is fighting–have killed and maimed far more innocent civilians with conventional weapons than with chemical ones.  The use of chemical weapons does not represent a fundamental shift in the nature of the war, which was already a total war waged without restraint against civilians by all sides (would that there were only two sides in Syria). …



And the Professor followed with another post.

The Syria story has many threads. I’ll address a few of them here.

First, to follow on Ex-Regulator’s comment: Trump’s initial public justification for the strike–the humanitarian impulse stirred by pictures of dying children–is deeply troubling. Sentimentality is a poor basis for policy. In particular, it has no limiting principle. If you take a tragic view of humanity–if you view mankind as fallen and flawed–you know that there is a virtually unending supply of sad, heartbreaking, stories. So how does a president choose which appeal to answer? And how do people know which appeals he will answer? Truth is, we have no idea. The line will be arbitrary, which leads to unpredictable, inconsistent policy. …

… Occam’s Razor would say that Trump’s attack completely undercuts the narrative that he is Putin’s bitch. But Occam’s Razor is an alien concept in the fever swamps of the left. The certifiably insane (Louise Mensch) and the hyper partisan but supposedly sane (Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews) certain have never shaved with it. They are claiming that this proves Trump is Putin’s bitch! The “reasoning”? He is doing it because the most likely interpretation is that it shows that Trump isn’t Putin’s bitch, so that means that he is! Or something.

In other words, this lot interprets everything that Trump does as evidence of his collusion with the Russians. This means that the hypothesis that he is in collusion with Putin is unfalsifiable, and hence is junk reasoning. It should therefore be rejected, as should anything that those who espouse this theory say.

Lastly, the attack is a complete embarrassment to the Obama administration, which preened and bragged that it had rid the Assad regime of chemical weapons. …




A more hopeful note comes from Scott Adams, of the Dilbert Blog.

1. President Trump just solved for the allegation that he is Putin’s puppet. He doesn’t look like Putin’s puppet today. And that was Trump’s biggest problem, which made it America’s problem too. No one wants a president who is under a cloud of suspicion about Russian influence.

2. President Trump solved (partly) the allegation that he is incompetent. You can hate this military action, but even Trump’s critics will call it measured and rational. Like it or not, President Trump’s credibility is likely to rise because of this, if not his popularity. Successful military action does that for presidents.

3. President Trump just set the table for his conversations with China about North Korea. Does China doubt Trump will take care of the problem in China’s own backyard if they don’t take care of it themselves? That negotiation just got easier.

4. Iran might be feeling a bit more flexible when it’s time to talk about their nuclear program. …




And from Andrew Malcolm who liked the missile strike.

President Donald Trump’s sudden missile strike against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for a gas attack on civilians will not change one thing about that sad land’s bloody civil war.

It will, however, alter the strategic calculus in many places within but also far beyond the troubled Middle East. Politically, the missiles also likely blasted any attempted allegations that Trump is a Putin patsy. Watch upcoming job approval polls for the popular verdict.

The 58 $1 million Tomahawk missiles (one fell into the sea) took out Syrian air force planes, reinforced hangars, fuel storage tanks and ammunition dumps. The intended message to Bashar Assad was, you can no longer use chemical weapons with impunity.

As columnist Charles Krauthammer aptly put it, following eight years of relative apathy and inaction after worse war crimes, the message from the new American president was not that there’s a new sheriff in town, but that there IS a sheriff in town. …