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Strange bedfellows

These are increasingly strange times.

I'm not going to pass comment on the rights or wrongs of Trump's surprise airstrike in Syria, other than to note that it's a surprising volte-face from a man who was consistently opposed to any form of foreign intervention even prior to his ultimately successful tilt at the Presidency. There's a hefty word-count already devoted to that particular issue, and I'm sure you aready have your own opinion.

I'm not even sure that I'm going to pass much comment on Trump's motivation. It seems unlikely that he was moved to tears by the "beautiful babies" as he put it in his emotional speech justifying the attack. Beautiful babies have been dying in Syria since the war started. He currently won't allow any of those beautiful babies into the US, as refugees from Syria are barred. So that seems unlikely. Some have suggested a deliberate muddying of the waters regarding Russia, and it's true that, a few disgruntled M.Ps aside, no one with any actual clout in ther russian set-up has said much of note. If they wished to, they'd have responded by now. I give a little more credence to the theory that it's an attempt to be the big man, a two fingers up to Obama and a priapic display of missile-thrusting in front of a startled Xi Jinping. But mostly I subscribe to the idea that it's Trump being Trump, an unpredictable weirdo. But again, vast acreages of column inches have already been expended upon this very topic.

What does bear further investigation though, is the voices ranged against him. Ask yourself this:

When was the last time Katie Hopkins agreed with Jeremy Corbyn? When was the last time Nigel Farage agreeed with Iran? When was the last time that US White Supremacist Richard Spencer was singing from the same hymnsheet as Hezbollah? Strange times make for strange bedfellows, and the multi-faceted nightmare which is the Syrian conflict is tearing up the rulebook when it comes to traditional battle-lines being drawn.

For Hopkins, writing in the Mail, the original attack is suspect. She wonders where the pictures of grieving mothers are. She's been pushing the #syriahoax hashtag, repeatedly attempting to cast doubt on the veracity of events. Quite as to why remains unclear, but she's horrified by Trump's attack on a "secular" president. As if secularism somehow excuses one from using chemical weapons.

Farage's response is more nuanced (not often you can say that), expressing "surprise" whilst professing support. "A lot of Trump supporters will be scratching their heads" he writes, Nigel speak for "wtf?". He too, focuses on Assad's "secularism." Farage's proud isolationism is often a cover for a thinly-veiled anti-islamicism. As with Hopkins, the fact that he is fighting radical islamist forces somehow lets him off the usage of chemical weapons. Farage's response at least puts him on the same side of the debate as Vladimir Putin, whom Farage has long admired, and who has acquired something of a totemic status amongst the upper echelons of UKIP (witness Arron Banks trying to give the impression that he's highly connected in Russia)

The debate amongst Trump supporters has raged long and hard: those who thought they were getting an America-first isolationist were blindsied by an interventionist airstrike straight out of the Bush/Blair playbook. The sort of thing that Trump long railed against. Ann Coulter's considering changing the name of her book from "In Trump we trust" to "In Trumpism we Trust".

This is all slightly bewildering. Corbyn's measured statement in response, with its emphasis on the need for peace talks and legal interventions is at least of a piece with his politics. But for hardcore right-wingers to suddenly get all antsy about a spot of bombing points to the situation being far weirder tha we had hitherto imagined. It is a reframing of the right, a further manifestation of the populaist earthquakes of Brexit and Trumpism. It is unusual, to say the least, to see elements of the right less than happy about lots of expensive military hardware being used, it's normally great news for their stock portfolios.

But does this mean that elements of them have a point? Reluctant as I am to give the alt-right the time of day, this fracturing over this issue shows that it is at least not a monolithic entity, that it is capable of self-reflection. Paul Joseph Watson's Twitter feed was ripped down the middle (he was anti). Whether you are for or against the bombing, the fact that this binary isn't split down traditional party lines is another indicator that the political landscape is changing far faster than at any time since 1945. As a disruptor of political systems, Trump's most conventional act since becoming President may yet prove to be the most disruptive of all.


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