Gwynne Dyer: Philippines Insurgency
A month ago, hardly anybody outside the Philippines had ever heard of Marawi.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017, after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for the gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.
©Alex Brandon/The Associated Press
From phallic towers to phallic missiles, U.S. President Donald Trump seems intent on impressing the world with his alpha male image. It’s a truism that there is something in the American psyche that dearly loves a war, and that presidents who hope for a second term in office must find some excuse for aggressive behaviour on the international stage.
Most presidents will discuss this desire for violence with the chiefs-of staff, and take advice from the diplomats. Trump is not most presidents, and seems to have decided to attack a Syrian target with little forethought, and without consulting his professional warriors.
I wish he’d let his diplomats do the talking, and his generals do the strategic planning, and stay away from matters that are way beyond his abilities.
It is reported that the U.S. president was so affected by the thought of dead Syrian babies that he decided then and there to punish the Assad regime. I don’t think he actually saw any pictures of the dead, but his imagination filled in the gory details. I doubt that anybody could think, without revulsion, about children being caught up in this sort of butchery, but I do wonder if an automatic reflex action was the best way to respond.
Possibly this is why Trump’s supporters prefer him to a political president, one who would consult his diplomatic and military staff before acting. This sort of personal gut-response may indeed bolster his credibility with the “Second Amendment people” who voted for him. I’m sure he’ll bask in the adulation of the gun-happy good ol’ boys. But there is always a price to be paid for such hasty action — violence begets violence, and Trump may find himself in an embarrassing position if Assad’s Russian ally decides to up the ante. It is amazing how easily an all-out war can develop from just such ill-considered actions.
On the other hand, the American people may welcome a full-scale war with Russia, an old enemy whose modern transformation has not erased memories of the old “Red Peril” era. Putin is no Stalin, but he’ll fill the role of “Uncle Joe” if necessary. One thing is very clear — if the Syrian conflict escalates into war between the Russian Federation and the U.S.A., Trump will see more dead men, women and children than he has ever imagined. I wish he’d let his diplomats do the talking, and his generals do the strategic planning, and stay away from matters that are way beyond his abilities.
I think we should all hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that peace will be seen as infinitely preferable to “playing soldiers.” As a longtime pacifist who was born during the Second World War, I’ve spent my life hoping that the Third World War could be avoided. But when men like Trump have access to the nuclear button, and hawks inhabit the White House, it’s probably just another idealistic dream.