The Trump administration is weighing different options regarding Syria at the present moment after a chemical weapons attack widely attributed to the Assad regime. The biggest chasm has developed between White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster over whether or not to start a ground war in the region.
According to a Bloomberg View report, McMaster is advocating a full-scale invasion of Syria, with 50,000 ground troops. Conservative journalist Mike Cernovich had previously warned that McMaster, in league with the disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus, was pushing for sending as many as 150,000 conventional forces to Syria. Bannon believes that this would create a “new Iraq war” and has derided McMaster to his colleagues for his proposal.
McMaster’s militarism is so bold that it even shocked other members of the national security apparatus. Bloomberg reports that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Commander of the U.S. Central Command Joseph Votel each oppose McMaster’s plan of military escalation in Syria. According to Cernovich, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is also opposed. McMaster’s proposal even puts to shame notorious war hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who only wants a mere 5,000-6,000 ground troops placed in Syria.
As of right now, President Trump indicates that there will be no war in Syria and that his policies have not changed, but the inner-workings of the Trump administration indicate that a substantial shift is taking place. Retired United States Army lieutenant general Mike Flynn, a supporter of closer ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and an opponent of regime change in Syria, was replaced with McMaster. Bannon himself was removed from the National Security Council recently, while Flynn ally KT McFarland was demoted from Deputy National Security Advisor to a fairly minor Ambassadorship.
It looks as if ‘America First’ nationalists are on the outs from the Trump administration as the conflicts with Syria and Russia continue to intensify. Trump claims that there will be no war in Syria, but his message is being undermined by powerful members of his own administration. Until there is some sort of unified, coherent message coming from the White House, peace advocates would be wise to stay on high alert.