Trump’s war moves and shell games: Distracting and extremely dangerous
On Trump's orders the Navy has already launched a well publicized, provocative and unconstitutional missile attack against a sovereign nation, Syria. And last week the U.S. shot a Syrian plane down out of the sky. | Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP

WASHINGTON – Are Donald Trump’s shock and awe attacks on immigrants, workers’ rights, women’s rights, healthcare and environmental protections meant to distract the public from his bringing the world closer to war?

Or is his reckless bombing of Syria, his getting the U.S. deeper into the Afghanistan morass and his sword rattling around the world meant to turn the attention of the American people away from his handing the nation over to his billionaire buddies?

The answer to both questions is “yes.”

What’s more, according to writer Naomi Klein, Trump is not just bumbling around. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

She told The Village Voice in a recent interview that “Trump has always understood the value of distraction … I don’t think that the Republicans had any idea how good Trump was going to be for them … for getting [them] what they want.”

Klein blasts the commercial media for its continual portrayal of Trump as “completely incompetent, totally incapable of executing any kind of strategy.”

Trump loves this narrative, Klein believes, because while the American people become entranced with “the Trump Show … the chaos and spectacle, the series of gasps that the last six months have [brought],” Trump is creating a “context in which it is possible to advance an extraordinarily radical economic agenda,” and this has “barely registered as a footnote.”

For example, Klein says, while the media has been focusing on “the Russia scandal … [Commerce Secretary] Wilbur Ross recently told a business audience that they were going to renegotiate NAFTA to make it more like the TPP — which is to say, worse for workers and better for businesses.”

Klein points out “That received no coverage.”

In other words, Trump is a hustler running a shell game.

The hustler puts a pea under one of three walnut shells then shuffles the shells around while the audience concentrates as hard as they can to keep track of which shell has the pea.

But the shuffling just distracts the audience from what the hustler is really doing: sneaking the pea under another shell.

On the street, people betting on the game just lose a few bucks.

In the world, Trump’s shell game can lead to a widening war.

In a Washington Post article, Katrina vanden Heuvel writes, “Trump’s chaos is covering for stealth escalation overseas.”

“The administration will dispatch 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, plus 400 to Syria,” vanden Heuvel writes.

“The president fired 23 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base,” she continues, “… [and] in recent weeks, U.S. forces have bombed Iranian-supported militia forces .. and shot down a Syrian jet flying over Syrian airspace.”

According to vanden Heuvel “The escalation is … flagrant in its illegality — both under U.S. law and under international law. Unlike Russia, the United States has not been invited into Syria by the government, so when the America shoots down a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace, it is an act of war, in direct violation of the U.N. charter.”

What’s most dangerous, vanden Heuvel says, is that “Across the Middle East, the administration [is driving] the United States ever further into wars without end, increasing the dangers of direct military confrontation with Russia and Iran.”

Already, “Russia has cut off coordination designed to avoid air collisions and announced that U.S. planes flying west of the Euphrates would be targeted.”

Trump is convincing the public not to look at the man behind the curtain

Of course, while Trump provokes Russia abroad he is being investigated here for concluding with Putin and other Russian oligarchs.

The mixed messages and confusion created by this seeming contradiction are enough to cause people to shut themselves off from the news for fear of information overload.

That’s exactly Trump’s goal.

Klein says “This is why it’s reckless and unstrategic for Trump’s opponents to go all in on the Russia scandal. It certainly needs to be investigated, but the Republicans are not going to impeach Trump until he is no longer useful to them.

“The only thing that would make him less useful to them is if substantial portions of his base turned on him. And the only thing that is going to make that happen is a relentless focus on his economic betrayals — connecting the dots between what he’s doing on health care, social security, bank regulation, tax policy, infrastructure. The whole thing is this massive corporate giveaway, and we need to be hammering away at it at least as enthusiastically as they’re hammering away at the Russia connection.”

Klein concludes by saying that the effects of the Trump era are going to last much longer than the Trump presidency.

She says that “The Muslim travel ban, which is intensely provocative, ending Dodd-Frank regulations, gutting environmental regulations — these are all things that tend to produce [future] crises.”

She calls on progressives to be ready for these crises, and to have programs to address them.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.