American Herald Tribune | Danny Haiphong: President Donald Trump shocked the world on April 6th when he ordered naval strikes on a Syrian airfield. US warships launched 59 tomahawk missiles that night, causing little material damage for the Syrian Arab Army but doing much in the way to escalate tensions between the US and the Syria. Indeed, the Trump Administration’s recent actions in Syria can be seen as nothing but a 180-degree shift from Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Trump campaigned on the promise to end regime change and ease relations with Russia. His first State of the Union address stated the same. Yet in a matter of days, campaign promises turned into empty rhetoric as bombs reigned over Syria.
What explains the change? Ever since the second half of his campaign, Trump has been engaged in a struggle with the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ruling class. Ruling class opposition has been characterized by a fervent anti-Russia narrative that accuses Trump of collaborating with Russian President Vladimir Putin to rig the 2016 elections in his favor. Such accusations have yet to be verified, although one wouldn’t know from the highly publicized intelligence committee hearings in Washington. Indeed, corporate media outlets and the two-party duopoly have attempted to delegitimize Trump at every turn for mere rhetorical gestures made toward Russia and Syria. The airstrikes may be the first sign that Trump has lost his battle with the neo-conservative and neo-liberal elite.
US escalation in Syria comes in the context of a string of events that points to a possible change in the balance of forces occupying Washington. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and prominent Trump-aligned Congressman Devin Nunes both recused themselves in recent weeks from the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the Presidential Election. In the same week leading up the attack on Syria, Steve Bannon was stripped of his formal position in the National Security Council while former Obama-Bush appointees regained their membership. Then a chemical weapons attack was reported to have struck Idlib province in Syria, which the corporate media immediately blamed on the Syrian government. Trump repeated the assertion, causing a panic among some US intelligence channels about the possibility of a military response based on faulty evidence.
It took only a few days before these fears became a reality. The airstrikes were a far cry from Trump’s campaign platform that promised to “drain the swamp.” His actions deviated from his battles with the neo-cons and neo-liberals in Congress, with whom he specifically targeted in his inauguration speech. Once the chemical attack was reported in Idlib, Trump’s tune changed. His words since the event have aligned perfectly with the institutions and political parties that he so vocally derided during his campaign and early days of his administration. The U-turn has largely gone unexplained, with much of the progressive left playing the “I told you so” game instead.
While exercises in mind reading carry little utility, it is safe to assume that the intense pressure placed on the Trump Administration has resulted in the desired effect. Since at least November of 2016, the corporate media and Trump have been engaged in a back and forth conflict. Corporate outlets such as the New York Times branded Trump an authoritarian and the second coming of Hitler. Independent news sources were labeled “fake news” by the Obama Administration for supposedly smearing Hillary Clinton on behalf of Russia. Trump answered back by publicly shaming corporate media outlets as “fake news,” stealing the term from his Democratic Party opposition.
The Democrats and Republicans collaborated with the corporate media to wage a multifaceted anti-Russia witch-hunt against Trump, WikiLeaks, and independent media. It began with a mysterious list of independent media sources deemed agents of Putin promoted by the Washington Post. Calls for Trump’s impeachment based on alleged ties with Russia have been heard the loudest from the mouths of the Democratic Party. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has dedicated over half of her show to the so-called Trump-Russia connection, which has supplemented the still fact-free Congressional hearings. And from November 2016 to April 2017, it appeared that there would be no let up to the ruling class antipathy toward the Trump Administration.
The tone changed dramatically after Trump ordered airstrikes on Syria after the alleged chemical attack on April 4th. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson placed regime change in Syria on the table despite taking the opposite position just 48-hours prior. Every channel of the Administration blamed Assad for the chemical weapons attack without any evidence to back up the claim. The corporate media praised Trump for his actions. Corporate outlets such as the New York Times and NBC suddenly found Trump to be courageous and “Presidential.” All Trump had to do was bomb another country to curry favor from his former adversaries in the corporate media and White House.
The Trump Administration has continued to pursue the neo-con and neo-liberal agenda in Washington following the Syria strikes. Pentagon officials threatened to conduct tomahawk strikes on the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). The US military reportedly sent naval frigates to the region, ready to fire if called upon. Such escalation was justified on the basis of potential upcoming nuclear weapons tests by the DPRK. This sent shockwaves throughout the region and prompted to China to warn both countries of the dangerous and potentially nuclear consequences of a military confrontation.
While no confrontation occurred, the change in rhetoric emanating from the Trump Administration has already carried with it profound political implications. Trump’s campaign promises to curb regime change wars abroad and mend relations with Russia allowed him to stand out from his GOP counterparts. Yet these promises were ultimately antithetical to the united agenda of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal wings that dominate the US imperialist state. Eventually, Trump’s forces were going to clash with the established elite. It appears that this clash has resulted in diminishing of Trump’s independent character, signaling a momentary victory for establishment forces. The question that is lurking the background is whether progressive and radical forces in the US can oppose the entire agenda of the US imperialist order and demand the Trump Administration make good on his foreign policy promises while opposing the administration whenever necessary. We failed to do this collectively during the Obama period, and humanity cannot afford too many more missed opportunities.