Thursday, December 26, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He complained that other countries weren't pretending the United States still had troops in northeastern Syria.

Trump tweeted what was probably intended as a warning to Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime in Syria, telling them not to kill "thousands if [of] innocent civilians in Idlib Province."

Idlib Province is in the northeastern quarter of Syria, the region where American forces used to be until they were suddenly relocated in October on Trump's order. The move allowed Turkey to invade, committing war crimes in the process against the Kurdish forces that had been fighting ISIS on behalf of the United States. 

Trump's tweet today also claimed, without evidence, that Turkey was trying to protect civilians in the region. In fact, the only recent news out of Turkey on the subject was that country's refusal to shelter any more of the Syrian civilian refugees that Trump was talking about.

Trump's order also meant that Russian forces took over the very same defensive positions that American soldiers abandoned. He later claimed that he was redeploying them to "get the oil"—Syria's oil fields are in the eastern part of the country—but American forces are simply doing guard duty over defunct wells at the moment. (The United States has no claim on the oil fields and would not be profiting even if they were producing.)

In other words, Trump is complaining that America's enemies in the Syrian Civil War are not acting as though he hadn't unilaterally abandoned the territory that they're now threatening civilians in.

Trump's insistence that the U.S. cut and run from the parts of Syria it was actually helping cost him a Defense Secretary (James Mattis), the top U.S. envoy to the anti-Assad coalition (Brett McGurk)  and a national security advisor (John Bolton), both of whom—among many others—warned that this would happen.

Why does this matter?

  • When presidents are incompetent in military matters and refuse to listen to experts, innocent people can die as a result.
  • The actual American military is a much bigger deterrent than a sternly-worded tweet.