The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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Archive for the ‘Trump Chronicles’ Category

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 70: Will No One Rid Me of This Troublesome Priest?

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

History buffs like me perked up last week when former FBI director James Comey dropped a reference to British King Henry II (1133-1189) and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket (1118-1170).

Maine Senator Angus King asked Mr. Comey this question: “You said [Trump] said, ‘I hope you will hold back on [the investigation] of this.’ But when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like ‘I hope’ or ‘I suggest’ or ‘would you,’ do you take that as a directive?” Mr. Comey responded: “Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’” Senator King answered: “I was just going to quote that in 1170 [of] Dec. 29 Henry II said, ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ And then the next day he was killed. Thomas A Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. We’re thinking along the same lines.”

And so a little background: Henry II was the King of England from 1154 until his death. Thomas Becket was his best friend, and chancellor (being appointed in 1155). In 1162 Becket was named Archbishop of Canterbury (while it was still a Catholic office). Henry assumed his best friend would chose loyalty to him over loyalty to Pope Alexander III.

He was wrong. Becket disagreed with Henry on several occasions which caused great anger in the king. In 1170 Henry famously cried: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Four of those present interpreted this as a directive to kill Becket. On December 29, 1170 they killed Becket.

Mr. Comey no doubt used this image to interpret his conversation with President Trump on February 14th. By all accounts Mr. Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and aide Jared Kushner to leave the room, and then said this to Mr. Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Comey did not see this as “I hope” but instead as “You will.” The fact that Mr. Comey was later fired makes his case stronger. He felt he was being ordered to stop the investigation in the same way that King Henry’s knights believed they were acting on orders from their king.

As a footnote, Mr. Trump’s son appeared on Fox News and said this: “When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping.’” (You can read the article in the Washington Post).

I doubt Mr. Comey will become a saint as St. Thomas Becket did, but I loved his reference.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 69: Your Mistake In Pulling Out of the Paris Accords

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to hold down a full time job and keep up with the damage caused by President Trump. Last month I wrote about his firing of FBI director James Comey. I had hopes of writing followups but just couldn’t get to it.

Last week I read, along with the rest of us, that President Trump has decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. I’ve been writing this blog post in my head ever since, and I’m determined to post it regardless of the fact that President Trump has continued to create chaos and pain following the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.

Perhaps when I retire I can do this full time, but for now I can’t keep up. Nevertheless I think an article on the Paris Accord still needs to be written.

For the last several decades most of us have recognized that our ongoing burning of fossil fuels harms our planet. We burn coal, natural gas, and oil to create heat. We use that heat to warm our homes and power our transportation. And to be fair, in the last 200 years these fossil fuels have allowed us to take for granted our ability to be warm (or cool, given air conditioning) and travel anywhere on our planet within a few hours.

But in the middle of the 20th Century some scientists began to notice that burning fossil fuels emitted the gas carbon dioxide, or CO2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas which means it “traps” heat that comes to us from the sun. A greenhouse gas allows heat into the atmosphere but prevents it from leaving. Greenhouses are used by botanists who want to grow plants and flowers in cold climates.

But when understood globally, greenhouse gases trap heat in a way that raises the temperature of the entire planet. We’re already seeing record warming of the Artic region that is melting polar ice and we face the reality that this will raise global sea level and flood low lying landmasses. Because climate change is a global reality it needs a global solution.

Last year countries from all over the world gathered and agreed on the Paris Accord. Simply put it meant that all countries would work to limit greenhouse gases.

Since World War II the United States has been called the Leader of the Free World. No longer.

President Trump attempts to play this as a bad deal for the United States. It isn’t. The only thing his move will do is remove us from a seat at the table and marginalize us.

Climate change is real and it’s not too late to for us to turn away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. But President Trump and others who deny clear science do not protect jobs. They just look like idiots. More later.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 68: The Ongoing Unraveling of the Story of Mr. Comey’s Firing

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Today marks a week since the firing of FBI director James Comey. It’s been quite a week and it’s hard to imagine a week that’s shown better how President Trump can create chaos.

My best example comes from the series of explanations President Trump gave for the firing:

  1. It wasn’t my idea. In the letter Mr. Trump sent to Mr. Comey, he claimed he was simply responding to the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. This didn’t last long as Mr. Rosenstein threatened to resign unless the White House admitted that he wrote his memo at the direction of the President (he has since denied this).
  2. It was because of his treatment of Hillary Clinton during the Presidential campaign. This didn’t last long as there was tape of Mr. Trump praising Mr. Comey last October 31st. Last Thursday Mr. Trump sat down with NBC News anchor Lester Holt and said this (I did some editing for clarity the previous link takes you to the interview):
    Mr. Trump: [Rob Rosenstein] made a recommendation. He’s highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He had made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.

    In other words he didn’t act on Mr. Robenstein’s recommendation because he had already decided to fire Mr. Comey (and fired him for a different reason).

  3. Mr. Comey led the FBI poorly. In the same interview with Mr. Holt, Mr Trump said this:
    “Look, he’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil — less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.” It’s worth noting that the FBI’s interim director, Andrew McCabe said this: “I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity and it has been the greatest privilege and honor in my professional life to work with him. I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does until this day. We are a large organization, we are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. We have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority — the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.

It’s been my experience that when someone gives me several reasons for an action or decision, it’s usually because he doesn’t want me to know the real reason. Today we learned that in February Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end the Russia probe. It’s not a stretch to think that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey out of disloyalty. Mr. Comey chose serve his country over his boss. If this is true, bravo Mr. Comey.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 67: You Really Don’t Get Why We Think Firing James Comey Was a Bad Idea

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Dear Don:

Wow, it’s hard sometimes to understand your thinking. Tuesday evening you shocked us with the news that you fired FBI director James Comey.

Mr. Comey has directed the FBI since his appointment on September 4, 2013. He was appointed by President Obama for a ten year term. While FBI directors serve at the pleasure of the President, it’s assumed that they will fulfill their term, and the ten year term assumed they would not be dependent on the occupant of the White House.

Yeah, that’s not what happened. During the campaign, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was investigated for her use of a private email server at her home in New York. On July 5, 2016 Director Comey announced that while Secretary Clinton showed poor judgement in using this private email server, neither she nor her staff broke any laws. This robbed the Republican party of what they convinced would lead to her being led off in handcuffs. Well, they kept making that charge, but we all knew that wouldn’t happen.

On October 28th, days before the election, Mr. Comey wrote a letter to Congress that emails surfaced that may reopen the investigation. Even though nothing in those emails implicated Secretary Clinton, and even though Mr. Comey announced (two days before the election), “never mind” it impacted how some voted.

Many of us, including the respected blog Five Thirty Eight, feel his October 28th letter cost Secretary Clinton the election.

At the time you cheered Director Comey, as you can find here. As a matter of fact, on January 22nd (two days after your inauguration) you hugged him.

But when the FBI began to look at possible ties between your campaign and Russia, things began to unravel. And that’s where it gets interesting. In March Mr. Comey refused to back up your false claim that President Obama wiretapped you.

But I suspect Mr. Comey’s exit happened when he requested more funding for the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election. Interestingly enough, Mr. Comey approached deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I attempted to provide a hotlink, but when I clicked on his webpage I got this broken link.

You see, Don, I think Mr. Comey wasn’t fired for any other reason than this: he was getting close to finding a link between you, your staff, and Russia. The fact that your explanation of the events of the last 48 hours continues to unravel makes my case as well as anything can.

Seriously, Don, call me. You’re running out of time.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 66: Apparently You’re Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Dear Don:

Don, Don, Don, what are we going to do with you? A few days ago you sat down with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner and said this about the Civil War:

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

I’m still wrapping my head around this quote, but I think you were trying to make the point that if President Andrew Jackson were still President in 1861 he could have prevented the Civil War.

When it was pointed out to you that President Jackson left office in 1837 and died in 1845, you doubled down on Twitter and claimed that “President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!”

Yeah, that’s not true. President Jackson owned slaves and almost certainly would have opposed the election of Abraham Lincoln and supported succession.

OK, you’re a real estate developer and I’m a history buff and I’m trying to be understanding about this. I don’t expect all of us to know our history, but I do expect our President to have a basic understanding of the history of the nation he leads.

So Don, let me school you on the causes of the Civil War. It’s really all about slavery.

We really need to begin with the first few years after the Declaration of Independence. Starting in 1781 we were governed by the Articles of Confederation. Slavery, which began in the American Colonies in 1619 had, by the 1780s, survived almost exclusively in the Southern States.

But the Declaration of Independence declared that all men (and we hope women) are created equal in the eyes of God. The Articles of Confederation, written in 1777, said nothing about slavery, but soon our founders met to “update” the Articles in 1787.

This led to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Delegates from all thirteen states grappled with values, dreams, hopes, fears, and their faith. In the end they created a Constitution that we all admire and promise to protect.

But while valuing separation of church and state, free speech, and countless other interests, they failed to decide the future of slavery. Southern delegates, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson recognized the irony of owning slaves in a “free” country but couldn’t bring themselves to call for abolition. To use a modern term, they kicked the can down the road.

But by the early 1800s our new nation faced the can they couldn’t kick: While the Constitution did not prohibit slavery, it decreed that slaves counted as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of the census. This benefited Southern slave owners as 60% of their slaves were counted in the census but didn’t vote.

You see, Don, the Southern economy depended primarily on agriculture, and with the invention of the cotton gin in 1794, cotton became incredibly valuable and created the large plantation system. Most Southern farmers didn’t own slaves but the Southern economy depended on slave labor.

At the same time our nation was growing. Until 1803 the Mississippi River constituted our Western border; that year we purchased the Louisiana Territory that brought us to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. By 1853 we owned all the land we now call the 48 contiguous states.

And that created a problem. Everyone knew that these vast territories would eventually coalesce into states, but the Southern (slave) states feared that the newly formed abolitionist movement, founded in the Northern states, would gain enough influence in Congress to abolish slavery. They demanded that Western expansion allow for the expansion of slavery, at least in the Southern territories.

By 1850 Congress attempted to admit states in pairs: one slave state and one free state.

But the election of 1860 made war inevitable. This is hard to imagine but the Democrats divided over the issue of slavery. Northern Democrats didn’t want slavery to expand West and backed Stephen A. Douglas. Southern Democrats backed John Breckenridge who found the expansion of slavery as necessary for their survival.

Democrats split their vote between Stephen Douglas and John Breckenridge, and Republicans voted for Abraham Lincoln. As he was an opponent of slavery, 11 states seceded.

Don, I’m telling you this because this war was inevitable. You may admire President Jackson but he would have been more of a problem than a solution. He was a Democrat and a slave owner.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 65: Your First Hundred Days Used To Matter to You

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

The first 100 days of any President’s term mark the first milestone is his term; this tradition first gained notoriety in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, beginning in 1933.

Other than being a round number, the number 100 is fairly arbitrary, a point President Trump has tried to distance himself from, calling it “ridiculous.” But at the same time you can see on the White House website that he’s bragging about all his accomplishments in his first 100 days.

People like me who continue to pay attention and attempt to keep him accountable point to a speech he made last year on October 22, 2016 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. History buffs like me revere Gettysburg as a turning point in the Civil War, and for the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Lincoln on November 19th of that year.

On that hallowed ground candidate Trump outlined his plans for his first day in office. You can read the speech here but let me highlight his promises:

  • proposing a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress
  • directing a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health)
  • directing a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated
  • directing a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service
  • directing a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government
  • proposing a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
  • announcing the intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205
  • announcing our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • directing the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator
  • directing the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately
  • lifting the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal
  • lifting the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
  • cancelling billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure
  • cancelling every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama
  • beginning the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States
  • cancelling all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities
  • removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back
  • suspending immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

In the next paragraph he outlined what he would do in his first 100 days:

1. Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.

2. End The Offshoring Act Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

3. American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

4. School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to gives parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.

6. Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

7. End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

8. Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.

9. Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values

10. Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

It’s little wonder he’s not sure how he feels about the 100 days.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 64: Are You Seriously Complaining that Your Job is Hard?

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Dear Don:

I feel no joy in writing this post, but I read the interview that Reuters published yesterday. One of your quotations struck me: “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know I’ve been telling you for months that serving the American people as our President is difficult. Last December 11th I raised the concern that you were not taking advantage of daily briefings. Five days later I suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to ignore intelligence that you didn’t like. On February 9th I pointed out how little you know about the balance of power and the role of the judiciary in our government. The next day I pointed out that your ignorance of the START treaty puts us all at risk.

I could go on and on, but here’s my point: you ran on a platform where you claimed that you were smart enough to not need to learn how to govern. Now we find that you believed all along that running our country would be easier than turning a small fortune into a big one in real estate. Last year I suggested that if we look only at the numbers I’ve been more of a success than you have. Don, I tell you that my father, who worked for the federal government from 1953 to 1988, knew something you’re still figuring out: government service is complicated. It requires a work ethic, and willingness to learn how to do the job. I’m proud of him because putting food on our table meant he needed to learn, to listen, to hone his skills, and to do a good job. And he didn’t spend every weekend playing golf at Mar a Lago.

Seriously, call me.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 63: Tread Carefully, Mr. Trump

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Dear Don:

As I write this we appear surrounded by possible international crises, and frankly I’ve been expecting it. Back in December I expressed concern that you don’t do your homework and believe yourself smart enough not to need to. My concern centered on the real possibility that another country will test you and you won’t know what to do.

Now I see that you are sabre rattling on North Korea, even to the point of lying about an “armada” heading their way. Even though Iran has complied with the terms of our nuclear treaty you insist that you will review it. In August of 2015 you called the treaty “terrible.” You ordered a bombing in Syria (using tomahawk missiles) after watching pictures of dying children. I could go on but I think you see my point.

Last month I wrote about the 100th anniversary of the US entrance into World War I. I didn’t write then about the reasons but it’s worth a look. Simply put, World War I resulted from a series of secret agreements, a push by crumbling empires to appear relevant, and a general disregard for the human cost of war.

Amazingly it all began with a small spark that ignited an immense powder keg. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was crumbling but still insisted on exerting influence on the nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A 19 year old Serbian named Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918) shot to death Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, next in line to the Austro Hungarian throne.

Austria-Hungary soon declared war on Serbia, and within weeks World War I formed between the Central Powers and the Allies.

On an autobiographical note, my wife’s grandfather was born in Austria-Hungary in 1882. When he was 20 his father put him on a ship to America to avoid his being drafted into the army for yet another war. It went well for him, and for me.

Don, my point is this: World War I casualties list 16,500,000 dead and 20,000,000 wounded. And it began with secret treaties and posturing between large nations. And the world went to war when a small spark from a 19 year hold hit a mountain of gunpowder.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 62: Sean Spicer And Amateur Hour Part 4

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Yesterday we saw the Press Secretary take Amateur Hour to a new high. Past recipients of the Amateur Hour award include Kellyanne Conway, President Trump, and Presidential Aide Stephen Miller. We can now add Sean Spicer to that list.

The full transcript of the briefing is here. In the course of his press conference he was asked what made President Trump think he can get President Putin to pull back his support for President Assad. Mr. Spicer responded:

I think a couple things. You look — we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed on to international agreements rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country. To not stand up to not only Assad, but your own word, should be troubling. Russia put their name on the line. So it’s not a question of how long that alliance has lasted, but at what point do they recognize that they are now getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way really quickly. And again, look at the countries that are standing with them: Iran, Syria, North Korea. This is not a team you want to be on. And I think that Russia has to recognize that while they may have had an alliance with them, that the lines that have been crossed are ones that no country should ever want to see another country cross. (italics mine)

Later in the briefing he was asked to clarify his remarks on how Hitler did not sink the level of using chemical weapons. Here is his response:

I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing, I mean, there was clearly — I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not — he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent — into the middle of towns. It was brought — so the use of it — I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent

.

In fairness he later apologized and recognized that he violated the First Rule of Politics: Never compare anything to Hitler.

And while I accept his apology, I’m more troubled by his clarification that his original statement. We all know that millions of Jews (and others) were gassed by Zyklon B, a chemical weapon. And I can understand how, in the heat of the moment, he forgot about that. But when asked to clarify (and when he could have easily admitted he was mistaken), he spoke about how President Assad’s crime was more serious than Hitler’s because Hitler didn’t use it on “his own people” and that Assad “dropped them down to innocent, in the middle of towns.”

Whether he intended it or not, Mr. Spicer claimed that Jews and others in the concentration camps (or the Holocaust center) were not “his own people.” This plays exactly into Hitler’s claim the Jews were not “our people” but outsiders.

Welcome to the Amateur Hour club.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 61: What Exactly Is Going On In Syria?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Dear President Trump:

In my last post I suggested that your are learning that you have a hard job. It got me thinking that you might need to understand what’s going on there. Here is my analysis (you’re welcome):

In 2011 we witnessed the Arab Spring. It began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Lybia, Yemen, and Syria. They all attempted to overthrow dictators and return power to the people.

The Arab Spring has mixed results, but for our purpose let’s concentrate on Syria. The people of Syria certainly had motivation. Since 2000 they have lived under the oppression of President Bashar al-Assad; he succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad who ruled from 1970 until his death. By all accounts Bashar is a chip off the old block: Hafez was just as cruel as his son.

This might be a good place to talk about the role of religion in all this. The majority of Syrians are Muslim but like Christianity, there are divisions within Islam. For example, I am Catholic and you are Presbyterian, but we are both Christians.

Almost from its beginning, Muslims have divided into two groups: Sunni and Shia. Most Muslims are Sunni, but there are pockets of Shia, including Iran.

In Syria a small group of Shia Muslims branched off to a group called Alawites. Mr. Assad and his family are Alawite.

So what does this mean? If you hear nothing else from this post hear this: the war in Syria is a three way war. Three groups all battle for victory, and claim foreign sponsors. Let me try to explain this as best I can:

  • Mr Assad leads the first group. As I said he is an Alawite and claims Syria’s only future lies in a continuation of his regime. He believes everyone who opposes him wants to destroy Syria and his backing comes from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Syrian resistance composes the second group. They viewed the Arab Spring and saw an opportunity to overthrow Mr. Assad. Three of four of them identify as Sunni Muslims and believe they have suffered from oppression at the hands of the Assad’s. The United States supports this group.
  • Finally, ISIS rounds out these groups. They are Shia and view both Alawites and Sunnis as infidels and want Syria to comprise part of a larger caliphate. They are backed by Iran.

Yes, Mr. Trump, this is complicated. Your fawning over Mr. Putin may well come back to haunt you as you have sent your Secretary of State to scold Mr. Putin. It likely won’t work. In any three way conflict, an alliance between two of them will almost certainly defeat the third. If Iran and Russia join forces, Syria may become a caliphate that none of us want.

Last September you told us you had a secret plan to destroy ISIS. At the time you refused to reveal it out of a fear that one of your opponents would appropriate it.

You no longer have opponents for your office. Maybe now is the time to reveal it.

Call me.