The Strategic Consequences of Donald Trump’s Limbic System

Syrian air force bombs a munitions dump belonging to insurgents.

Aerosol anti-personnel chemicals are released into the surrounding atmosphere, and drift towards a town in which people, including numerous children, reside.

The chemicals adversely affect the people’s health. A camera-team is nearby and captures the horror on film, including the treatment of children as medical staff try desperately to save them and reduce the damage to them.

President Trump sees the footage, talks to his advisers, asks for military retaliation against the Syrian military, and releases the following message to the public: 

My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.

Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many.

Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.

Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the United States and its allies.

Tonight, I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.

We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed.

And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.

Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.

My questions:

  • How does he know that the Syrians launched the attack? How does he know that the insurgents aren’t responsible for storing chemical munitions at the ammunition dump, which were released when the Syrians bombed it?
  • How does he know that the chemicals released were a ‘deadly nerve agent’?
  • How does he know that ‘There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council’? Syria, monitored by an international committee of supervisors, gave up all of its chemical weapons for destruction in 2013 – so, if the Syrians carried out a chemical attack, where did they get the chemicals from?
  • How will the ineffective bombing an airfield deter the use of chemical weapons? If the chemical weapons belonged to the insurgents, and they see that Trump will respond to chemical attacks by bombing their main enemy, won’t this actually encourage more chemical attacks?
  • What intelligence sources and processes did the President rely on for his information? Did he just rely on his gut reaction to pictures on television – like Angela Merkel did, when opening up Europe’s borders and welfare systems to the entire world after seeing a photo of a drowned toddler?
  • There are Russian servicemen working alongside the Syrians. What if one of the cruise missiles had hit a Russian plane or killed one or serviceman or several servicemen?
  • Did Trump even know that his actions violated both US and international law? Does he realise that his attack was an act of unprovoked aggression?
  • Has Trump considered what he will do if an investigation into the incident reveals that the Syrians were not responsible for the release of the chemicals? Or the effect this will have on US prestige, and his reputation?
  • Given that Trump’s stated aim in Syria is to defeat ISIS, and the Syrians are the main force fighting ISIS, wouldn’t the missiles have been better spent attacking ISIS positions?

Seems that Trump’s brain saw toddlers dead and dying of chemical weapons, saw that this outcome followed an attack by the Syrian air force, jumped to the conclusion that the Syrians had dropped chemical weapons on civilians, including babies, and ordered a retaliatory attack. All ‘System I’ mental processes. ‘System II’ reasoning, questioning, waiting, discussing, didn’t get a look in. All from the gut, all from the limbic system.

Reading the reactions across the internet following the missile strike, there were many who were dismayed that Trump had gone against everything had said for the past four years about avoiding involvement in Syria. There were many who were proud of the attack, saying that it had restored US prestige and put other countries – in particular China, Iran, and North Korea – on notice that they had better not mess with the president. Others who were initially despondent have now come to see that the attacks might actually be positive for Trump – he has slain the myth of being a puppet of Moscow, he has thrown a bone to the bloodthirsty neo-cons, and he has shown himself to be impulsive when provoked – again, sending a message to the Chinks, the mullahs and the Norks. Some of them are actually now praising him, and can’t see anything not to like.

My own first reaction to the news was to be stunned. My first impression was that the release of the chemicals was a ‘false flag’, as had been the case at Ghouta in 2013, which had also been blamed initially on the Syrians and was almost made into a casus belli by the western powers, until calmer heads intervened. Therefore it seemed that Trump’s quick military response was impulsive, intemperate and tremendously dangerous. I felt that I had woken up in a new, and significantly more dangerous world.

That the attack has done good things for Trump’s immediate political position is I think correct. He has had a win. But I don’t think he planned it that way. It has just happened that way. And I think it creates a dangerous precedent, now that the precedent has been set for immediate military reaction against likely aggressors as soon as anything adverse happens.

The US’ main strategic problem, I think, is that it combines the world’s greatest store of resources, including military power, with the world’s most fractured and permeable political system. No country, no group, that wants to influence the world, and which is operating in an area viewed with interest by the US, can ignore it, nor can they pass up the opportunity to gull, deceive, or win control over, US political figures, with the aim of gaining control of some or all of those immense resources for their own ends.

Hence, we see the incredible Israeli effort to win the support of US politicians and figures of influence, and to destroy the careers of those who question Israeli actions in the middle east and influence in Washington.  Hence we saw the Iranians deliberately feed the gullible neo-cons with false intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons programme, with the aim of encouraging the US to invade Iraq, overthrow the Sunni power structure, and hand the country over to Shi-ite, and thus Iranian, influence. Hence we hear remarkable stories of the British intelligence agencies, prior to World War II, seeking to influence US politics and society in a way favourable to themselves, and towards supporting the British in the inevitable war against Nazi Germany. Hence we have the US and Israeli intelligence agencies and agents of influence organising the September 11 ‘false flag’ attacks in order to galvanise the public behind an Israeli plan to use US power to throw the middle east into disarray, thus enhancing Israeli national security, while also putting the US into a permanent State of Emergency, curbing civil liberties, and boosting the resources and power of the US military-industrial-intelligence complex.

And now, the US President himself has told the world that, if they can create a picture that is objectionable to him, and make it look like their enemies did it, then Trump will bomb their enemies for them.

I can’t see any good coming from this. And, for the first time, ever, I’m terrified of what it might lead the US military to do.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in Decision-making, Epistemic Rationality, Esau Problem, Instrumental Rationality, Poor reasoning, The Suicide of the West. Bookmark the permalink.

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