Early Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
So, here we are.
There’s a lot going on in that tweet – and a lot wrong with it. Let’s count them up.
1. Twitter isn’t the place to kind of, sort of announce a military strike
Yes, I know Twitter expanded its character count from 140 to 280. But even 280 characters seems insufficient to threaten – or maybe more than threaten? – both Russia and Syrian with missile strikes. And, even if Twitter had an unlimited character count, is a microblogging site really the proper medium on which to announce military action against a foreign power while taunting another foreign power about it? (This paragraph is 414 characters long.)
2. What happened to not telegraphing our military actions?
One of Trump’s most vociferous critiques of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the 2016 campaign was that they were too transparent about what they would do with our military forces – allowing the enemy to know our next move and plan for it.
“She’s telling us how to fight ISIS,” Trump said of Clinton during the duo’s first debate in the fall of 2016. “Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much.” He later added: “You’re telling the enemy everything you want to do.”
There’s also this:
How is tweeting out “Get ready Russia” in regards to the launching of “nice, new and ‘smart’” missiles not the same thing? Or perhaps even worse given that Trump isn’t publicly laying out a broad strategy of how to solve the problems surrounding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but rather previewing actual missile launches?
3. No one knows how seriously to take this
The prospect of launching missiles at Syria – missiles that Russia has pledged to shoot down – is a very serious thing to decide. The problem is that no one really knows Trump has actually decided to do it – or not.
Was this tweet a purposeful kick-off of a missile launch? Did the top brass in the military know about it?Had they OK’d the language and timing of the tweet?
Or was this just Trump popping off? Watching early morning cable TV, seeing a report about Russia’s pledge to shoot down missiles aimed at Syria and thinking “I’ll show them”?
A tweet he sent less than an hour after his “get ready Russia” tweet seems to suggest the latter. “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War,” wrote Trump. “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?
But, didn’t he just tweet about Russia and Syria needing to get ready for some missiles headed their way?