For all his rancor and bombast, Donald Trump’s behavior has given away that he’s very much afraid of a number of things. He’s too afraid of Vladimir Putin and Stormy Daniels to speak a negative word about either of them. He’s afraid someone is going to figure out that he’s so deeply in debt, he’s not really a billionaire. He’s afraid of the Pee Pee Tape. Everyone seems to get this, because Trump telegraphs it. But there’s another thing Trump truly fears, and no one seems to get it.
Take a look at Trump’s military strike in Syria over the weekend. It couldn’t have been more muted or narrowly focused, and it’s already finished. That was even more so the case when Trump bombed Syria last year and didn’t even hit anything meaningful. Of course he doesn’t want to upset Russia, which largely controls Syria. But this is part of a larger pattern for Trump that goes far beyond concern over Russia.
Trump’s most bombastic military action was when he authorized the use of the “Mother of all Bombs” in Afghanistan. But that was purposely done in a barren area occupied by no one and nothing, an explosion full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The most controversial military op authorized by Trump was his raid in Yemen, which despite being a very stupid decision on his part which went calamitously wrong, only involved a very small number of U.S. troops.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Donald Trump is truly afraid of being a wartime president. He’s gone out of his way to avoid major military conflict whenever possible. He spent the election railing against the Iraq War. Perhaps even he realized that these kinds of land wars always come back to haunt the president who started them. Or maybe Trump just can’t figure out how to personally profit from war. But it couldn’t be more clear that Trump is afraid of war.
Too many anti-Trump people are hung up on the idea that Donald Trump desperately wants to go to war. So naturally, when Trump hired warmonger John Bolton this week, they assumed it was so Trump could start a war. Yet this weekend’s muted Syria bombing is evidence that even with Bolton on board, Trump is still trying to avoid major military risks. By the way, Trump hired Bolton because the Mercers told him to bring Bolton into the fold as the Cambridge Analytica scandal was exploding, as Bolton was a major client of the firm, and could end up being a key witness if Trump and the Mercers don’t keep him happy. It had nothing to do with war.
Based on his threatening tweets, Donald Trump wants us all to think he wants to go to war. But that’s how he gains a bit of leverage over people. He makes the public fear that if the investigations into his criminal scandals move in too tightly, he’ll just start a war. But in reality, his behavior has consistently demonstrated that – for whatever reason – he’s scared to death of being a wartime president. When we insist that he’s going to start a war any minute, we’re giving him leverage, and we’re playing right into his hands.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report