Sunday, January 6, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He reversed his plan to abandon U.S. allies in the Syrian conflict (without admitting it).

Last month, Trump abruptly declared his intention to unilaterally withdraw U.S. troops from the Syrian conflict. The order came without warning, shocking American military leaders and forcing Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign in protest

The biggest winners from such a withdrawal would be Russia (which is allied to the genocidal Assad regime in Syria) and Turkey (which would be free to attack Syrian Kurds, the United States' ally on the ground in Syria). The move also alarmed Israel.

Given the enormous political blowback, Trump's handlers almost immediately began walking back the announcement (even as Trump walked it forward), insisting that the troop drawdown would take place over a much longer timeframe than originally planned. Today, Trump's national security advisor John Bolton took that process to its logical conclusion, saying that U.S. troops would be withdrawn only at an unspecified future time when certain conditions were met.

One of those "conditions," the actual defeat of Islamic State loyalists in Syria, is something Trump has already (falsely) declared victory on.

How is this a problem?

  • Undoing bad policy doesn't undo all the consequences of making it in the first places.
  • Anything that weakens allies' trust in the United States is a threat to national security.