Sunday, October 27, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He took a victory lap for a military mission he did everything possible to jeopardize.

American forces carried out a raid last night that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the notional leader of the Islamic State. This morning, Trump gave a long speech in which he credited himself, and then Russia and Turkey, for the success of the raid. When asked about the role played by Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, the United States' former allies in the fight against ISIS, Trump would only grudgingly say that they gave "certain support."

But as the day wore on, and military and Trump administration sources began reaching out to reporters, a very different story emerged. In reality, Russia and Turkey's role appears to have been to stay out of the American military's way, while Kurdish intelligence provided the United States with al-Baghdadi's whereabouts and details about his personal security. (He was found and killed in northwest Syria, which Turkey—apparently completely unaware of his presence—has controlled since 2018) 

Trump's sudden and still unexplained decision to allow Turkey to invade the region nearly torpedoed the mission altogether, as the New York Times reported this evening:

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.
But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said. 
Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

What's the problem with this?

  • It's bad if the commander-in-chief unnecessarily endangers the people under his command.