Don’t Be Surprised the Next Time Trump Ends a U.S. Mission
No one knows why the president pulled the plug on Syria now, but NATO and South Korea should be worried.
The news that President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria is a shock but should hardly be a surprise. Trump telegraphs his punches, and last spring he made clear he wanted to pull U.S. forces out immediately. Military commanders talked him out of it by asking for several more months. But he didn’t change his mind, and they were on the clock.
Since then, administration officials have pretended this issue was resolved. They made a series of chest-thumping statements about how the U.S. would stay in Syria to sustain the pressure on ISIS and take the fight to Iranian forces there. Yet there was never any evidence the president was on board with this approach – whenever he talks about the Middle East, he sounds more like Bernie Sanders than George W. Bush. And there was never any attempt to reconcile the administration’s stated goals in the region – ratcheting up pressure on Iran, fighting ISIS, and “reasserting” U.S. influence – with Trump’s core objective of getting out altogether. This shows, once again, the futility of taking Trump administration officials at their word. With the kind of boss they have, they are usually left to faking it or free-lancing.