The political headlines on April 11–Day 82 of the Trump administration–were dominated by news about the U.S. airstrikes in Syria following the use of sarin gas on a city in Syria last week. To begin with, press secretary Sean Spicer came under fire for suggesting during a press conference that even Adolf Hitler did not stoop so low as to use chemical weapons, forgetting that Hitler gassed and killed 6 million Jews in concentration camps, which Spicer called “Holocaust centers.” Spicer quickly apologized, but the damage was already done and he came under ferocious criticism from the media for his inaccurate and incorrect comments.
In other news regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army, the White House accused the Russian government of attempting to cover up the use of sarin gas and trying to mislead the public by promoting false news stories suggesting the chemical weapons attack did not take place or was faked by the U.S.. At the same time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the Assad regime was coming to an end. Tillerson also stated that Russia was mistaken in backing Assad in the Middle East. Tillerson then told Russia that it would have to either pick the Assad regime or the U.S., to which Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, responded by stating that the U.S. had faked the chemical weapons attack as a provocation to enter into the war.
In other news, Republicans found themselves locked in a close congressional race in Kansas for the seat left vacant by Mike Pompeo when he took on his role as Director of the CIA. Some news sources speculated that this was the result of a backlash from the Trump-voting heartland against the actions taken during Trump’s tenure as president so far. Trump has come under criticism from his base of support for taking a more establishment Republican tone, something his constituents specifically voted against. The Republican party is taking the race quite seriously. Trump and vice-president Mike Pence have recorded calls to be sent to constituents in Kansas campaigning for the party candidate Ron Estes. High profile Republicans, like Senator Ted Cruz, have also flown in to the state to speak with voters. This tense race comes amidst news of a new poll that shows House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at 44% approval rating among his constituents, while Sen. Bernie Sanders sits at 75% approval among his.
Regarding U.S. relations with North Korea, the tension surrounding the movement of the U.S. navy strike team towards the Korean Peninsula grew as North Korea issued a warning to the U.S., stating that it was willing to take any actions necessary to defend itself.
Finally, the Trump administration began to fulfill its promise to voters to be more competitive with China as the two countries agreed on a trade deal to provide easier access to the Chinese market for American firms in both the financial and the beef-export sectors. The deal marks a beginning in the attempts by the Trump administration to rebalance the trade deficit with China.
Day 82 was a day less of climaxes, and more of building tensions. We saw the tensions surrounding U.S. actions in Syria escalate, as both the U.S. and Russia began to show increasing signs of hostility. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days, as both sides are led by men who like to project strength with little interest in backing down from the fight. It is very possible that we may see an increase in the intensity of the proxy war that is growing in Syria. While this may draw parallels to some of the proxy wars fought during the Cold War, it is important to note that the U.S. is most likely to provide support in the form of remote missile strikes, training, and the use of elite special forces, but will be unlikely to put too many boots on the ground. If this were to escalate into an all out war, it will likely include what is referred to as “fourth-generation warfare” tactics, dominated by misinformation and guerrilla warfare. It has been described by many contemporary military strategists as the future of war. I hope that both sides will come to a peaceful agreement to end the conflict before it progresses further. And I hope that in the coming days, the news we report on this blog will bring hope to our readers, and not have them dreading the next day.