Dr. Sebastian Gorka, deputy adviser to the president and former Breitbart News National Security editor, joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss the American missile attack on Syria.
“I’m going to be very specific about my comments this morning, Raheem,” Gorka began. “We know that the best way to go to war is to protect certain information sources, methods, and to make sure the enemy doesn’t know what you’re going to do next. Surprise is incredibly important. We act in a strategic fashion that’s very different from the last eight years.”
Gorka said statements made by President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear whom the United States holds responsible for the Idlib chemical weapons attack.
“I’m not going to talk about percentages or how we know, but the fact that those statements were made can make everybody rest easy that yes, the regime was responsible,” he said.
Kassam noted that President Trump has been critical of intelligence mistakes in the past, and the memory of faulty intelligence leading into the Iraq War is still fresh in many minds. “Where is the strategic imperative here? How does this help the United States?” he asked.
“Very simply: because what we’re talking about is the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians,” Gorka replied. “And I’m fully cognizant of the fact that people are very leery about prior engagements. The U.K. dossier you mentioned, specifically, will go down in history as a misuse of intelligence analysis. I understand that. But it doesn’t mean that you throw away all intelligence analysis simply when somebody politicized it once a decade ago or more than a decade ago.”
“The strategic imperative is very clear. These weapons not only are banned; they are being used against civilians. That is a global problem,” he said. “We have sent a very clear message that when you do something as heinous, as evil, as using weapons of mass destruction against unarmed civilians, you will pay a penalty. That’s why it’s in the U.S. national security interest.”
Gorka stressed it was important to “send a very clear message that these weapons are not to be used anywhere.”
“It’s a very clear national security message,” he said. “The global context affects America as much as it affects the people who were killed in that attack on Tuesday. Weapons of mass destruction are a global phenomena that have to be dealt with by a global strategy. So yes, the two things are not mutually exclusive, but the moral imperative and the national security imperative can overlap, and in this case, they do.”
Gorka said that based on preliminary assessments, the strike was “absolutely” considered successful, “simply because of the damage that was done to the airbase that was used for the chemical attack on Tuesday.”
“If you look at the response globally from those countries that have responded positively, absolutely,” he added. “However, it’s early days. The metric for the success of this will depend a lot on what Damascus does next. But as far as we are concerned at this initial stage, yes, absolutely, it was a success.”
Kassam asked if Gorka was surprised to hear critics of the administration claim the Syria strike was intended as a distraction from President Trump’s troubles.
“Having been in my current position for the last eleven weeks, I can believe anything,” Gorka replied with dry humor. He lamented “what this administration has put up with, in terms of utter, utter cynicism and politically motivated coverage of everything we do.”
“I say again, look at the speech made by our ambassador to the United Nations, and look at those photographs. It is unconscionable for anybody – I don’t care who you voted for on November the 8 – it is unconscionable for anybody to say we are making political theater out of the deaths and the injuries that happened on Tuesday.”
Gorka repeated that both the moral imperative and national security imperative dovetailed in President Trump’s action. “We have sent a very clear message: America is back, America is leading, and America will not be a feckless, spineless non-actor in the international community. Those days are over,” he said.
“We will be politically chastised, though, by those who do not recognize that we have a new administration,” he allowed. “So be it. We’re used to it.”
Kassam quoted Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) assertion that President Trump should have come to Congress for authorization before attacking Syria.
“Just look at the last sixty years of presidential use of force,” Gorka countered. “This goes to a lot of the Breitbart readers. I want them to think about something for a second. Nothing has changed in the president’s policy to the use of force in international affairs. He said during the campaign, and he’s been explicit since he came into office, that he is not interested – this is not the second Bush administration. We are not interested in invading countries and occupying them. He understands why that is not a good idea and why fundamentally it’s un-American. We were born in rejection of imperialism, not to reinforce it.”
“This is not Gulf I, nor is this 2003,” he vowed. “This is a cruise missile strike against an air facility involved in a chemical attack on civilians. People need to understand that. This is not a full-throated war deployment. It is a surgical strike using missiles. I’d like people to think about that for a second. I understand the isolationist imperative, but weapons of mass destruction are in a very special category.”
Kassam countered that hearing any American president talk about military action to neutralize weapons of mass destruction produced a “sinking feeling in the pit of [his] stomach about what’s coming next.”
“How do you stop the train once it’s in motion? We know how these things work. We’ve seen them develop before,” he said.
Gorka responded, “I know the president, and I know what he thinks” about the slippery slope into larger actions of the Iraq War variety.
Kassam asked if he could guarantee Thursday night’s attack on the Syrian airfield was a “one-off.”
“Again, we don’t give our playbook away,” Gorka responded. “All I’m saying is I know the president, and I know his attitude to what happened in the last sixteen years. You can take that to the bank, my friend.”
Kassam asked if Gorka could offer assurances that the United States would not be drawn into a proxy war, or even direct conflict, with Russia.
“There’s absolutely no need to fear for any broader escalation,” Gorka said. “The Russian government will decide what it’s going to do next. It’s a sovereign state. But even when you have satrapies, even when you have client states, there comes a time when you have to decide whether it is in your personal interest to maintain that relationship.”
“I would say when that state, when that client, starts to use chemical weapons against its own populace, then the calculus changes,” he continued. “We understand the comments being made, but there is a point at which this kind of sponsorship is no longer in the interests of the sponsoring state. We are completely confident that we have this in the category in which it’s going to stay.”
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