Trump ran his campaign on preferring a "bad guy" like Assad, if the only alternative is jihadist whackjobs who will spread chaos and violence all around the Middle East and the wider world. He defended that as a general principle, from Assad to Saddam to Qaddafi. "But they hurt their own people!" I know, it's terrible, really hahribble stuff -- but look at who the replacement would be, and the situation for people would be far worse.
Here are all the times Trump mentioned Syria on Twitter, from the most recent. Most are about the potential invasion or regime change in 2013 after another false flag chemical attack. Trump was forceful about not getting suckered into invading -- and that if Obama did get suckered into that, at least don't get suckered into picking up the tab as well, but make the Arab League pay us handsomely.
We should stay the hell out of Syria, the "rebels" are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2013
Now, he pins the blame on Assad and says it's changed his mind. He says he's famously flexible and not a rigid ideologue, so his plans are subject to change.
But when you listen to interviews from 10, 20, and 30 years ago, it's clear that he is the least flexible or mutable person who has ever taken high office. At least on the very important matters like trade, re-industrialization, immigration, healthcare, and foreign policy, all fitting into the broad theme of nationalism and populism. He even uses the same phrases and intonation (1999: "Saudi Arabia is ripping us off big-league").
The only thing he's really "evolved" on is abortion, going from pro-choice to pro-life after his wife got pregnant while he was fairly old to be a new father, but they took the risk and were rewarded with a son who's the apple of his eye. Even that issue is part of the culture war, which does not interest Trump at all -- the big picture is about the economy and the government, not social-cultural matters.
What does change from Trump is his moment-to-moment messaging, image, and presentation -- meant to throw his enemies onto the wrong track, keep them guessing, and lure them into letting their guard down.
There are four main groups who are pushing for regime change, so let's look at how Trump's policy of dissembling about his goals in Syria neutralizes the threat from each of them.
1. Jihadists on the ground (ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, etc.)
This is the group he is most worried about, since they're the ones doing the raping. By appearing to flip-flop overnight, he lulls them into complacency. Maybe Uncle Sam will be helping us topple Assad after all!
This will not only give the pro-Assad coalition the all-important element of surprise against the jihadists, it will also convince al-Nusra etc. not to take such desperate last-ditch measures like another false flag chemical attack. Their days are numbered, and Trump doesn't want them to go out with a great big desperate bang.
2. State enablers of jihadists (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey)
These countries favor jihadists over an ally of Iran, which is expanding its sphere of influence in the region.
But they are also lazy and stingy, relying as always on Uncle Sam to do the fighting, supply the arms, and otherwise pay up for the operation.
If they thought that the US was against regime change in Syria, then they might grudgingly take up the task themselves, risking a war against Russia.
If they're lulled into complacency about Uncle Sam stepping in yet again, they won't mobilize their militaries for invasion. Regime change will be a "possibility" that never materializes, and by the time the jihadists are defeated, their state enablers will have no cover story for why they're invading to topple Assad.
3. Warmongers in the American military, deep state, and elected office
They want to expand their sphere of influence as broadly as possible, whether or not it benefits the American people.
By appearing to have changed his mind, Trump fends off a rising chorus of war cries, and lulls them into complacency. They no longer cook up plan A, B, and C, figuring that Trump and his team are already on it.
4. Media and oppositional Democrats
They tow the Establishment line, so appearing to acknowledge their concerns gets them to stop beating the war drums so incessantly.
They are even more easily lulled into complacency because they have the self-aggrandizing delusion that they're powerful enough to push Trump one way or another on major policies. They will be the first to declare victory and pat themselves on the back, while Trump prepares his true plan.
The "tell" that Trump is playing his enemies yet again is how over-the-top his denunciations have been about the inhuman barbarity against little beautiful babies. This is the same guy who responded to Bill O'Reilly's attempt to provoke him into denouncing Putin as a "killer" with, "Yeah, well, there's a lot of killers out there -- you think we're so innocent?"
He knows which side is likely behind the attack, if not the specific jihadi group / state enabler / deep state operatives. Those specifics will take some time to figure out, and he needs to be left alone by his enemies in the meantime.
Rather than dismissing the attack on Twitter as "another obvious false flag trying to lure our stupid leaders into wasting lives and money in the Middle East," he's going to turn it back around on the real perpetrators.
In order for that boomerang to inflict maximum damage, he's going to have to get people's emotions on fire about how intolerable the act was. Then when we read a tweet about how he "just found out" that it was really, say, al-Nusra, helped along by Turkey, with CIA support -- he can call for greater severity against the jihadists (torture to get information), a clean break with the wrong-side-of-history nations like Turkey / Saudi Arabia, and heads to roll among deep state warmongers.
Then he can call for reprisals not just for how horrific the initial act was, but for the deceptive propaganda that could have lured us into another Iraq War -- this time against a nuclear superpower like Russia!
It will be hard to pull off a full discrediting of the jihadi warmongers without indulging them a little bit first. If he wants the warmongers to hang for it, first he has to fan the flames of calling for the perps to hang for it. The ultimate sneak attack will be revealing who the perps actually are.