This article was originally published at Lew Rockwell on 14 April 17.
During the campaign, a lot of enthusiastic Donald Trump supporters would claim, when the wisdom of his tactics was questioned, that Trump was playing 3D chess while Hillary Clinton and her sycophants in the mainstream media were playing 2D chess or even checkers. While I never doubted Trump’s powers of persuasion, I generally avoided the 3D chess claim, because I was, quite frankly, torn between whether he was a genius who was several steps ahead of the game or whether he was just the right guy at the right time who was making it up as he went along. I won’t swear that I never made the 3D chess claim in some moment of enthusiasm, lest someone dig it up, but I was never sold on the idea that that is what we were witnessing. My hunch was always that he was the right man at the right time who was flying by the seat of his pants and succeeding by the sheer force of his personality.
The problem with the 3D chess claim is that, like a conspiracy theory, it is difficult to falsify. The claim that Trump has made a misstep can always be chalked up to us not really understanding the depths of his machinations. This framework can potentially paper over and serve as a justification for actual missteps, the same way evidence of the non-existence of a particular conspiracy serves as more confirmation of its existence in the minds of certain individuals.
Trump’s decision to launch missiles at Syria in response to very questionable reports that the Assad regime used chemical weapons has caused great consternation among some of Trump’s previously most supportive base. For many of Trump’s most intense base, his promise of a more “America first” foreign policy that eschews regime change and pledges less international meddling was one of the, if not the, primary reason they supported him and viewed him as a genuine alternative to the status quo.