Huge focus, rightly, today on the worryingly bellicose tweets coming from President Trump. For me Trump had it over Hillary mainly because of all things, she was a massive war-monger and being a businessman, war was really not his thing.
The Russians though have pushed the West into a very invidious position. They took Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, diverted oil and gas supplies through Iran, had an assassination campaign across the west, troll farms to try to affect Western Democracy, confiscation of Western Assets in Russia, murders of journalists....it is a very long list and this is before we get to Assad and Syria.
The thing is, the Russians have a plan. De-stabilise the World order with the aim of getting previously unfriendly countries onside and open to takeover by gangsterism and bribery, with a side benefit of undermining the West. At the same time destroy all opposition both in Russia and in Exile to maintain the regime in the Motherland.
I posted on Maskirovka last week, this the bedrock of the execution of this strategy. Deny everything, use useful idiots the world over to promote their fake lines, use their very in-depth infowar teams to promote alternative lines, weaken the resolve to stand up to Russia.
Boy has this been successful, in Syria it got hot because actual Russian forces have heavily supported Assad along with Iranians. The challenge is for the West, that they have mainly been fighting Jihadi's. So it is very much like Libya indeed, where removing Gaddafi was seen as a good thing but turned out to be a big mistake.
However, it seems beyond reasonable doubt that Assad has been using chemical weapons for sometime, clearly as a last resort in several places to break all final resistance. The idea of it being the rebels is for the birds, as has been investigated years ago. But it is great Maskirovka because there are no good guys in a civil war that has lasted seven years and cost too many lives.
The West then is in a bind, Russia can huff it is ready for a war and if the Kremlin is over-confident (tick), then perhaps it is. Perhaps they will try to ruin the West less with bombs and rockets and more with virus's and internet denial attacks. But if he world lets Chemical attacks go unanswered a terrible precedent is set for the future. Chemical today, biological tomorrow, perhaps Nuclear in due course...where do we draw Obama's line in the sand?
So what to do Trump, another missile strike on Assad forces, taking out command and control points to undermine his regime, makes a lot of sense on one level. Also, for me, drawing the line in the sand for the Russians is getting more urgent now, they have really extended themselves but will keep pushing if they see the West folds every time. Very high risk though and so this is also, whilst logical on one level, a poor deterrent. A more realpolitik approach is needed, whereby we let Russia win Syria but then promise to give up Assad for War Crimes - difficult to achieve, but better than world war three risk.