Trump and Syria Through the Persuasion Lens

This part of an ongoing look at persuasion techniques used by Donald Trump. You might want to check out the previous post – How I Became Obsessed with Donald Trump for context. This blog is not about Trump’s policies or whether they are good or bad, but an analysis of his skills as a persuader.

The Trumpsophere has been flipping its lid lately over the USA’s strike on a Syrian air base. The strike is in response to a chemical weapons attack on innocent people, alleged to have been order by President Assad.

The most surprising reaction has come from some of Trump’s most hardcore supporters in the ‘alternative’ media. To their credit, they’re willing to criticize him at the drop of a hat which proves their support isn’t necessarily all about the cult of personality.

The theories are varied and dramatic. Some believe the chemical attack is a hoax designed as an excuse for a full invasion. Others see it as standard procedure for a murderous dictator. Trump’s response has also provoked speculation, such as selling out to the so-called globalists or being manipulated by the ‘deep-state.’

If you’re reading this blog you probably know that I see Trump as a Master Persuader (click here for context). Can we learn anything looking at the scenario through the persuasion lens?

I see the air base attack as a persuasion power play – an opportunity seized by Trump to control certain narratives and influence the decisions of foreign leaders. The move was Machiavellian in its purest sense, a cunning ploy that would be pulled by Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones if he were president.

Obama and The Red Line

There’s a lot of discussion about whether or not Assad actually launched the chemical attack. I don’t know if he did or not. A lot of of the western world believes that he did, so Trump has to maneuver in that reality.

Obama famously made threats that he didn’t follow up on, including one that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a ‘red line’ that if crossed would lead to US intervention. It was a threat he would quietly back down from. By launching the attack so decisively, Trump has signaled to the world that he has a very different way of doing business that his predecessor.

China and North Korea

Chinese President Xi Jinping was literally in the USA visiting Trump when he gave the order to attack. What better time for Trump to flex his muscles? Especially since Trump has been hinting that China needs to take a bigger role in dealing with North Korea. I’d imagine plenty of Chinese officials may have already started changing their minds on North Korea when Trump announced plans to impose massive tariffs on Chinese imports into the USA. He’s even thrown around the number 40% – very high.

Many free market capitalists have warned that such protectionism would drive prices up for US consumers, and they’d be right. However if you understand that Trump sees everything as a negotiation you start to see his actions in a different light. It’s an opening bid – an extreme position he takes to use a leverage to get what he really wants.

If Obama had vowed to impose a 40% tariff on Chinese imports nobody would have taken the threat seriously. It seems contradictory to his steady-hand demeanour. Trump on the other hand seems like the kind of maverick who would actually go through with it, which actually gives him more power in negotiations. Some say Trump is just naturally chaotic. I see a deliberate strategy.

The Syrian missile strike serves a similar purpose. The Chinese will tread far more carefully with Trump than they have for previous presidents.

Trump as Russian Puppet Narrative

The Democrats and their friends in the media have been pushing the Trump/Russia narrative to overcome their cognitive dissonance on why they took such a hammering at the election. This strike, against a Russian ally, puts an end to that narrative. Some anti-Trumpers will forever cling to that story, and find ways to justify their belief. For the rest of the world it will fade over the coming year.

Appeasing the Neo-Cons

The neo-con arm of the Republican party like nothing better than a good old fashioned war and nation-building expedition. Trump knows that this never goes as planned. Like it or not however, Trump will need the help of neo-cons in the coming years in Congress as well as internationally. Giving them a little taste of an invasion, but not enough to fully satisfy them, brings them to the table and once again provides more negotiating leverage.


The damage caused by the strike was minimal compared to the horrific chemical attacks that have happened in Syria. The USA bombed Syrian planes and a runway, but nowhere near enough to cause significant damage to their overall war effort. They avoided Russian forces and civilian causalities. The strike is more of a show than a strategic military action.

No real military gains, but significant persuasion gains for Trump.


If you liked this post then you should see my live persuasion show because it will give you a new perspective on the world.