Samson and Delilah, 1628, Anthony van Dyck (public domain)
Samson is blind, only in this case his eyesight has not been taken by a lone Delilah. He’s been blinded by a coterie of White House advisors and West Wing ideologues who tell him one story over and over again, keeping all other narratives far away and out of sight.
Unlike her biblical predecessor, Nikki Haley didn’t trim the president’s coif, but she was a prominent Never Trumper right up to Election Day. It took no time at all for her Never Trump pals to insinuate her into the United Nations as the administration’s mouthpiece for bombast and bellicosity. No matter that candidate Donald Trump spent nearly two years expounding an America First foreign policy of restraint. Nikki Haley was put in place to promote the Lindsay Graham/John McCain way of militant global interventionism, regardless of Trump’s initial realpolitik reassessment of the American-Russian relationship. It was Haley showed up to the UN with a sack full of monkey wrenches to assure such a measured rapprochement never happened.
Haley is convinced she’s the 21st century’s Adlai Stevenson, heroically standing up to the expansive, messianic Soviet Union and international communism. If only Putin would show up at the General Assembly to bang his Bruno Magli!
The really, really tough guys surrounding Trump, keeping his blinders firmly in place, have been having their way for the past quarter century. They are not about to allow this Samson to derail their march towards destiny. What the average American sees as serial disasters they see as great exploits: the wars in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen; the interventions and meddling in Syria and Ukraine. Their overarching strategy in place, it is only Samson they must leash and lead along now.
In the spring and summer of 2017 Samson had asked for options on getting out of Afghanistan. Instead, every choice he was given was a variation on staying in, with the only difference the level of troop increase. At one infamous meeting attended by then-White House aides Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, Samson in a profanity-laced tirade railed against the generals for offering no viable plans to leave Afghanistan by the end of his first term. Yet a few weeks later, he announced he would be increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. Seeing no other option, he chose the smallest escalation among those that were offered. He was being shorn one patch of combover at a time, his strength, power, and will drained away by the Praetorian Guard of the Deep State.
The American people can see for themselves that regardless of whom they elect, regardless of which party is nominally in power, the United States remains in a state of perpetual war. Even after conservative primary voters rejected every single candidate associated with military intervention and wars of choice (Jeb, Rubio, Christie, Kasich, Fiorina), even after the Republican Party platform explicitly forbade military aide to Ukraine, even after the electorate rejected the serial interventionist “We came, we saw, he died” Hillary Clinton—America still got perpetual war.
One by one the evil tyrants have fallen: Milosevic, Hussein, Gaddafi—even Mubarak. Now we are being told its time to remove the tyrant Assad, just one more and all will be well. That is, until its time to topple the mullahs in Tehran. Or maybe the great tyrant in Moscow.
This is the fairy tale world inhabited by Nikki Haley, Lindsey Graham, John Bolton, Brian Hook, Condoleezza Rice, and most of the sclerotic experts at State and Defense. No amount of failure, no amount of death and destruction causes the least bit of introspection, reconsideration, or reflection—let alone remorse or contrition.
We can imagine the meeting at the Oval Office. Dear Mister President, here are your options:
- A missile strike on a Syrian airbase. But since you did that a year ago and nothing was accomplished other than killing a few airmen and destroying a few grounded jets with missing parts, maybe we should up the ante.
- Ground the entire Syrian air force with a massive strike. This is the option being promoted by Lindsey Graham. It would most assuredly kill many, many more Syrian soldiers and civilians and guarantee Assad’s attention. Maybe even Putin’s.
- Decapitate the regime by launching missile and drone strikes at every known Assad hideout and bunker. This would also kill plenty of Syrian soldiers and civilians and might even succeed in “taking out” Assad, to use again one of Graham’s favorite phrases.
- Launch a George W. Bush-style flat-out invasion of Syria. Capture Damascus and install a Jeffersonian democracy on the recalcitrant heathens.
We can picture our duly elected Samson mulling this over with purpose and consternation. Then he asks, “If we take options one, two, three, or four, what will the Syrians do? What will the Turks do? The Iranians? The radical Islamists? The Russians?“
The interventionist cabal has their answers ready, the way they did in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, the way they always do: “Not to worry Mr. President. We have it all under control. We are defending the new world order. We are promoting freedom. We are making the world safe for democracy. We are fighting the war to end all wars. Just trust us. It’ll all work out just fine.”
At which point Samson interrupts: “But what about the American people? How do any of these options make them safer or the homeland more secure?”
The high priesthood of foreign policy knows its man: “Mr. President, you’ll show the entire world you are not a man to be messed with. You’ll show them who’s boss.”
At which point the blinkered and blinded Samson replies: “Its going to be very tough, very tough. There will be a big price to pay.”
So will Samson bring down the temple and with it all of us? Or will wiser heads prevail?
Ron Maxwell wrote and directed the Civil War motion-pictures Gettysburg, Gods & Generals, and Copperhead.