Yesterday was an interesting and historical day. Did you know that a hundred years ago, to the day, USA entered WW1 on the side of the Triple Entente. All jokes aside, I thought it was ironic that Trump’s first attempt to bomb Syria came on the 100th anniversary of the first concrete attempt by USA to become a global power. While the entry of USA in WW1 marked its beginning as a global power, it is very likely that Trump’s misadventure will be remembered as the beginning of its end as a global power.
You might have noticed that the title of this post tells you that it is about the medium-term (months to a few years) effects of his decision to bomb Syria. So, why did I not write about the short-term (days to a few weeks) effects of this decision? The simple answer is as follows: 1] There is realistically still too much uncertainty about which party will respond in what manner; 2] The short-term effects of such actions often (but not always) have little influence on the course of history.
Having said that, here are the likely medium-term effects of Trump’s ill-advised decision, in no particular order of importance.
1] Trump’s presidential campaign was based on promises to defeat ISIL, Al-Qaeda and similar fundamentalist Sunni Islamic outfits in the middle-east by cooperating with relatively secular or non-Sunni leaders in that part of the world. Well.. after yesterdays’ events it is now basically impossible for him to ever coordinate with Syria, Iran or Russia to defeat fundamentalist Sunni Islamist in this region. While the relationship between Syria and USA has always been complicated, prior to 2010 there was limited cooperation between both sides in attempts to combat such fundamentalists. Now that is unlikely to be ever revived.. and certainly not in the next 4-8 years.
2] One of the supposedly smart policies of the Trump administration involved trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran. Once again.. yesterday’s misadventure basically destroyed any credibility the new administration might have had with Russia. Russia now sees Trump45 as no better than Obama44 or a potential HRC45. To say this will have no effects of subsequent Russian policy towards USA and its puppet states like Germany and UK is wishful thinking. Expect more overt Russian intervention in countries bordering it, and unlike in Syria there won’t be much USA can do about that. The situation in Ukraine will also start getting interesting.
3] Trump’s rash actions lowers the threshold for N. Korea deciding to nuke Seoul. Yes, you heard that right. There is now a much higher likelihood that leaders in N. Korea will interpret any tough-talk or inflammatory actions from USA as an intention to attack them. Their almost inevitable response will involve increased threats and increased likelihood of actually using nuclear weapons. Unless S. Korean leaders kick the USA out of their country or greatly diminish its presence in it, things could get very exciting for them. I have a feeling that S. Koreans might soon decide that having USA military presence in their country is a now a far bigger liability than any potential benefits from keeping them around.
4] While Russia has been involved in the Middle-East at some level for years now, if not decades, they have so far avoided supplying massive quantities of weapons to religion and ethnicity based groups. Even in the current Syrian conflict they have largely avoided directly funneling weapons to the Hezbollah, other Shia Militias and Kurds. This restraint was largely a consequence of unofficial “understandings” between Russia on one side and countries like Israel and Turkey on the other. As you know, neither country has kept their end of these deals and now they support Trump’s action + tried to work around Russia. Therefore it is very likely that Russia won’t keep their end of the deal. Expect a large and fairly direct supply of weapons to groups like the Hezbollah and various anti-Turkey Kurdish groups.
5] Trumps’ impulsive actions also greatly increases the chance of serious armed confrontation with Russia, and not just in the Middle-East. I should remind all jingoists in USA that Russia still possesses more nukes, ICBMs than the USA- not to mention tactical nuclear weapons. Restraint during the Cold War was largely a consequence of the specter of Mutually Assured Destruction and the belief that the leadership on the other side were not bonkers. Subsequent events have shown the Russians that people in USA are untrustworthy and now mentally unstable. Expect them to adjust their military and nuclear strategies appropriately.
What do you think? Comments?