A little over four days ago, the United States dropped $60 million-worth of Tomahawk missiles on an airfield in Syria. As of this writing, it is unclear what impact those bombs will have on the course of the Syrian civil war — or even what impact they were meant to have.
The targeted airfield remains in operation. In recent days, White House officials have, in one minute, characterized the strike as a one-off bid to deter the use of chemical weapons — and, in the next, as a declaration of America’s intention to protect “innocents anywhere in the world” and support “regime change” in Syria.
The strike’s impact on America’s domestic politics has, arguably, been clearer. For Republican Russia hawks in Congress, seeing the president rain missiles on Moscow’s client state eased fears of Putin’s puppetry. And this, combined with the televisual appeal of “beautiful” bomb footage, has pushed stories about the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign onto the back-burner.
These developments led many to read this Onion headline as the opposite of “fake news.”
And, apparently, the headline was genuinely accurate — if you read “Trump” as a reference to the president’s less-charismatic adult son.
“If there was anything that [bombing] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie,” Eric Trump told the Daily Telegraph while visiting the Trump Turnberry golf resort in the U.K. this week.
Trump went on to say that if the Russians “disrespect us and if they cross us,” then there “will be no one harder” than his father.
Of course, if there’s anything that bombing Syria didn’t do, it was conclusively establish that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and hackers affiliated with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
While blue America’s info-warriors have insisted that Trump’s every intemperate tweet is actually a coded message to his overseers in Moscow, there’s no reason why it can’t be simultaneously true that 1) Putin has no special leverage over Trump, and 2) Trump has ties to shady Russian figures, and was unscrupulous enough to welcome their “campaign contributions,” so to speak.
2) Trump has ties to shady Russian figures, and was unscrupulous enough to welcome their “campaign contributions,” so to speak.
To be fair to Eric Trump, he did not suggest that disproving allegations of loyalty to Putin was his father’s motivation for the strike. Rather, he, like many others, said that the president was “deeply affected” by images of Syrian children on television — and by Ivanka’s anguish over those images.
This is certainly a less cynical motive for bombing a foreign government than the desire to defuse a domestic scandal. But it’s hardly a better one; Trump was perfectly aware that Assad’s government killed children before last week. Previously, he had even mocked the premise that gassing civilians was somehow worse than killing them with conventional weapons. It may be comforting to know that Trump is capable of feeling empathy for Syrian children when he sees them on TV — albeit, not enough empathy to unfreeze America’s Syrian-refugee program — but it’s rather unnerving that our president decides whether or not to commit an act of war on the basis of how it made him feel to watch cable news.
Eric Trump seemed to discern this fact over the course of his interview with the Telegraph. Moments after explaining that his father ordered a bombing campaign because of upsetting images he encountered, Eric explained that the president is “a great thinker, practical not impulsive … I’m proud he took that action and believe me, he thinks things through.”