It is a day of mixed emotions for me. This is the day after our troops flew into northeast Syria in 8 helicopters (so the story goes) and killed the current leader of the ISIS terrorist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So that is good news. But with the possibility that thousands of ISIS fighters might escape or be freed from prisons in the territory the Kurds once occupied, I’m not sure it will matter in the long run. It is highly likely that a new leader will rise, forged in the furnace of war and incarceration and more radical than the older leaders we have come to know. Still it does not take away from the operation to behead jihad and take out a person who might have been a unifying figure for the caliphate to coalesce around. Perhaps these extremists will have found a longing for an end to hate and a desire to while away their future days in sweet enjoyment of children, wives, prayer, and community. Highly unlikely, but I wish it for them and for us.
Trump handled his messaging quite well this morning. He did not gloat and steal credit from the military. He was appropriately somber. Too bad there is that niggling voice in the back of our minds saying that the timing of this attack is quite serendipitous for our beleaguered president. I can see this as a gift from his cohort to help distract from his serious and unconstitutional behavior in Ukraine, from the impeachment inquiry, from his surprise withdrawal of troops in Syria, apparently at the request of world powers who may not have America’s best interests at heart, and Trump’s betrayal of our allies the Kurds. It’s difficult not to be cynical. But Trump certainly won this Sunday morning.
This tactic, if that’s what it is, certainly has better optics than grown men and women storming into a secure room to act like the Merry Pranksters with pizza. Will it win Trump the points he needs? Will it change any minds about whether or not he should be impeached? According to the reporting, Trump had cleared this with Russia, Turkey and Syria to insure that our soldiers would not be shot from the sky. And they were not shot down which is perhaps a sign that no one is interested in starting a world war right now. Hard to be cynical about that. We cannot know how close Trump is to these authoritarian leaders, but we know he admires their “strength.” We can only watch and wonder how all this will change the messaging over the next week.
Perhaps Trump will become more the braggart as time passes. Is he trying to distract us also from the distance we have travelled from our old NATO allies (except for Turkey who probably should not even be in NATO)? Was he perhaps not subtle enough in the missteps he made in our current foreign affairs hot spots, did he tip his hand and did his strong man friends have to rein him in? Even his toadies and the so-called deep state were shocked. Did Trump’s army change the narrative and will next week’s news have to smile favorably upon him and give him some good press. Although we may breathe a sigh of relief that one more aggressor is gone from this world, forgetting Trump’s “sins” will remain a bridge too far for most of us, I suspect. As advertised; mixed emotions.