Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

When Donald Trump launched those missiles at Syria last week, the entire American political and media establishment went into a swoon."I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night," Fareed Zakaria said on CNN, reflecting a common view. Even the failing New York Times (as Mr. Trump invariably calls it) applauded.

Everyone from the neocons to the liberal interventionists agreed it was the right thing to do. At one stroke, Mr. Trump sent a message to the evil Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, distanced himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin and showed the Chinese and the North Koreans he means business. Yes, America is back! He also showed there really is a line, and that civilized countries will not tolerate slaughtering people with poison gas. "No child of God should suffer such horror," said Mr. Trump – a sentiment with which few can disagree.

Personally, I'm glad he did it. It probably can't hurt. But Mr. Trump is a man who is completely guided by the instinct of the moment. There's no use trying to figure out the Trump Doctrine, because the Trump Doctrine is whatever impulse feels right to him right now. "Let Syria and ISIS fight," he declared during his run for the Republican presidential nomination. "Why do we care?" I'm sure he genuinely meant that at the time, just as much as he means anything he says at any given moment.

Story continues below advertisement

Opinion: Winging it in the White House: Trump and foreign policy

Mr. Trump's main source of information is cable TV. He is, as his advisers say, an "auditory and visual learner," which means he can't be bothered with briefing notes and details. He saw those pathetic little corpses on Fox News one night and got upset, and thus a missile strike was born. I doubt he's given much deep thought to what comes next. Besides, there were so many bonus points! He made Barack Obama look like a spineless wimp. He took people's minds off the fiascoes, the failures and the knife fights in the White House. Best of all, he forced all the people he hates and despises to admit that he looks like a winner.

The thing you should never forget about Mr. Trump is his bottomless, insatiable need for approval. That's what drives him more than anything. He styles himself as the tough outsider who's not afraid to take on the elites. But really, what he wants is for the elites to love him – especially the mainstream media and the policy poobahs who he professes to detest, and the failing New York Times above all.

Whether any of God's children will be spared by Mr. Trump's missile strike is anybody's guess. The cynic in me says that Mr. al-Assad will simply hide the poison gas and go back to bombing, mutilating and murdering infants in the normal way. Who's going to stop him? Not the "international community," on which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling to step up and show its resolve. They're not interested. The fact is that as long as Russia and China sit on the UN Security Council, Mr. Trudeau would have better luck calling on the Easter Bunny.

In fact, Mr. al-Assad's fate will depend heavily on the judgment of Mr. Trump and his advisers and generals, and whether he wades into the Middle Eastern swamp with more than token military action. That's when stuff gets complicated. As for the fate of those millions of displaced Syrians, good luck to them. Mr. Trump has shown he doesn't give a damn.

I do think one unintended good thing has come out of this. Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon has suffered a bad, if not mortal, blow. Mr. Bannon hated the idea of a strike. But his credibility is shot, because almost everything he's touched has gone sour and the strike went well. He even tangled with the son-in-law – a no-no in any family business, which is what the White House has become. Mr. Bannon actually believes he's living in a real-life Game of Thrones, and that Winter is coming. Fortunately for us all, he may soon be written out of the script.

Not that Jared Kushner – now the President's senior adviser, especially on foreign affairs – is anyone you'd want guiding the Trump Doctrine. He's a jumped-up rich kid whose daddy wrote a giant cheque to help him get into Harvard. As with many things in Trumpland, perhaps we should be grateful it isn't worse.

Story continues below advertisement

Which is about the way I feel about that Tomahawk cruise-missile strike. It was a spectacular piece of performance art. Where things go from here is anybody's guess.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies