Shocking Syria withdrawal plan is pure Trump

President Donald Trump once famously said he knew more ...

Posted: Dec 21, 2018 12:52 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2018 12:52 PM

President Donald Trump once famously said he knew more about ISIS than US generals do. Now he wants to prove it.

His big gamble on a sudden and rapid Syria pullout, which broke on Wednesday, is classic Trump in execution and content after he effectively declared mission accomplished and the defeat of ISIS.

Armed forces

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Foreign policy

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

International relations

International relations and national security

Investigations

ISIS

ISIS airstrikes

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Military

Misc organizations

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Syria

Syria conflict

The Americas

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

US federal government

White House

The President announced an apparently impulsive decision that shook the world, showed little sign of nuanced consideration, confounded top advisers and by the end of the day left Washington in chaos and confusion.

It was a move that appeared to clash with the central goal of his Middle East policy -- containing Iran's regional influence -- since it could leave a vacuum for Tehran and other outside nations to fill.

But while the manner of his decision was unorthodox for a President, the move itself tapped into a significant body of support among Trump's supporters as well as grassroots Democrats that it is time for America's post-9/11 deployments, several of which have no obvious exit strategy, to end.

"Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever?" Trump tweeted Thursday.

But Trump's critics inside Washington, his own party, the military and around the world are already decrying what they see as a massive strategic blunder that could open the way for an ISIS rebound.

"It's a mistake of colossal proportions and the President fails to see how it will endanger our country," a senior administration official told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, usually a Trump ally, blasted the decision on the Senate floor Wednesday night.

"This is a stain on the honor of the United States," the South Carolina Republican said.

"I think it's disastrous to our own national security," he added.

There was also a strong suspicion that a President under political and legal siege was casting around for a year-end win to add to a triumph represented by the passage of a criminal justice bill, and to divert attention from a concession in a duel with Congress over funding for his border wall.

Trump released a video on Wednesday evening touting his decision to bring troops home that looked like a bid to lock in a pre-Christmas political boost.

"Our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back and they're coming back now. We won, and that's the way we want it. And that's the way they want it," the President says in the video.

Trump's decision to ditch US leverage in Syria, which fulfills one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's goals, will spark fresh speculation about Trump's motives as his relationship with Russia comes under increasing scrutiny.

"If the decision to withdraw was made, then it is a correct one," Putin said at his annual news conference on Thursday.

In another win for Moscow, the administration on Wednesday told Congress it was lifting sanctions on two Russian firms. But reflecting the strange duality of US policy on Russia, Washington announced sanctions against 15 members of Moscow's GRU intelligence service and four entities over election interference, an assassination attempt in Britain and other "malign activities."

No one has ever accused the President of being consistent. But his decision opens him to charges of hypocrisy since Trump branded former President Barack Obama the "founder" of ISIS after the group exploited the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 to build its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Other people's wars

While the move to withdraw US special forces from a fraught geopolitical hotspot might have been unexpected, it was squarely in line with Trump's idiosyncratic worldview.

It's no secret that he believes American troops should not be fighting what he sees as other people's wars, and he tends to view alliances as simply a chance for America's traditional friends to rip off the US.

And while Trump's Pentagon and foreign policy aides have been warning that the fight to prevent an ISIS resurgence is not over, the President concocted a more simple reality that satisfies a political goal.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump wrote on Twitter.

The President's decision not to schedule a major address to the American people to explain the strategic foundation of his withdrawal added to the impression of a leader uninterested in the details of grave decisions.

Unlike many of the President's most significant, shocking decisions, the Syria withdrawal order did not test constitutional norms and was well within the guardrails of mainstream political thought on overseas deployments.

After all, he won the 2016 election; he is the constitutionally empowered civilian commander in chief with the right to give such orders.

Confusion

Trump's move shared characteristics with many of his previous executive power coups.

It was a bold move by a President who relishes that power rather than a bottom-up policy process typical in most administrations.

He is also untroubled that the experts in his administration were advising him to take another course.

On December 11, for instance, the US special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, made an argument that contradicted Trump's reasoning on Wednesday.

"If we've learned one thing over the years, enduring defeat of a group like this means you can't just defeat their physical space and then leave; you have to make sure the internal security forces are in place to ensure that those gains, security gains, are enduring," McGurk said.

Another characteristic result of Wednesday's announcement was chaos.

Trump's decision -- like his executive order decreeing a travel ban on citizens of some mostly Muslim nations, for instance -- left officials on his own team struggling to explain the implications.

One senior administration official made available to reporters could not say how many troops have already left Syria or when others would return to the US.

Confusion in the White House will be mirrored abroad, where US allies often struggle to understand the administration's strategic goals.

Trump's go-it-alone move also ranked as yet another insult for America's friends in the West who had sent soldiers to fight and die alongside Americans.

Two diplomatic sources from countries in the Middle East told CNN's Elise Labott that their countries had not been consulted or informed and news of the planned withdrawal came as a "total surprise."

As is often the case with Trump's foreign policy decisions, there was also a whiff of some kind of hidden quid pro quo.

The Syria pullout order came after a call last Friday between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A US departure from the region could potentially give Turkey an advantage in its efforts to pressure Kurdish rebels in Syria and to stop them from bolstering the Kurdish militant group PKK, which it views as a terrorist organization.

In another development that could be connected, the United States on Tuesday approved the sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system to Turkey.

In recent weeks, Erdogan's disclosures about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul have exposed Trump to criticism from Republican senators over his support for Saudi Arabia's crown prince, who is accused of ordering the killing.

Washington observers will now be watching to see whether Erdogan dials down the Khashoggi issue.

West Lafayette
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 71°
Kokomo
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Rensselaer
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Fowler
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
Williamsport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Crawfordsville
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Frankfort
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Delphi
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 69°
Monticello
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Logansport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Turning Warmer & More Humid, Then Big Cool-Down
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76522

Reported Deaths: 3086
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16194731
Lake7742281
Elkhart495586
Allen4040163
St. Joseph361083
Hamilton2887104
Vanderburgh205313
Hendricks1943108
Cass18069
Johnson1794119
Porter136239
Clark130750
Tippecanoe124511
Madison103066
LaPorte93530
Howard92065
Kosciusko87212
Floyd82249
Bartholomew82147
Marshall79423
Monroe76732
Delaware76052
Vigo71411
Dubois71312
Boone69746
Noble69029
Hancock68839
Jackson5975
Warrick58830
Shelby56828
LaGrange56610
Grant53130
Dearborn51628
Morgan48934
Clinton4504
Henry41820
Wayne38810
White37711
Montgomery36021
Lawrence35727
Harrison35224
Decatur34232
Putnam3218
Daviess27920
Miami2772
Scott27310
Jasper2572
Greene25434
Franklin24715
DeKalb2384
Gibson2334
Jennings22812
Steuben2153
Ripley2138
Carroll2003
Fayette1957
Perry18713
Posey1800
Starke1807
Orange17824
Wells1782
Fulton1732
Wabash1715
Jefferson1662
Knox1640
Whitley1566
Tipton14912
Washington1441
Sullivan1411
Spencer1393
Clay1315
Huntington1273
Randolph1274
Newton12110
Adams1172
Owen1051
Jay920
Rush894
Pulaski821
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike620
Vermillion590
Parke551
Switzerland530
Martin500
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0208

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events