Sorry. Just because I’ve spent so much time on this story, I feel obliged to keep going with it. I posted twice before on Trump’s planned pullout from Syria, first when it was announced, and then when John Bolton seemed to modify the policy to the point of effectively reversing it:
First US forces were leaving in a hurry, then they weren’t. I wake up today, and this is the headline:
Jesus H. Christ in an adult diaper, utter incompetent chaos is the only thing this administration does competently. So now they are going? With nothing done to protect the Kurds?
It sure looks that way. I suppose I’d assumed that before Bolton and Pompeo started visiting foreign capitals to spread the word that US forces weren’t actually pulling out of Syria post-haste, they’d managed to talk Trump off the ledge, made him think like their policy was really his idea all along, and boy what a stable genius that proved him to be, by gum, and thus had been given the green light. Apparently not, which is astonishing – it would seem that they figured they’d announce their own preferred policy first, and then persuade the President that they were merely saying what Donald actually meant the whole time. If so, that’s being reckless to the point of gross negligence.
It’s also not the way you handle Trump. What you do is, you say “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full sir”, and then tell him it’s well in train, while actually not doing it, or only sort of doing it, until he shifts focus to another shiny object and forgets. You dream up bogus roadblocks to moving as fast as he wants. You slow-walk everything. You create the illusion of progress, but do as little as possible, without actually defying orders, until the moron’s tenure in the Oval is over, which please, God, will be in less than two years. Remember that neo-fascist military parade he was going to stage in D.C.? That’s how you handle it. You don’t shoot your mouth off and flat-out contradict him in public, making promises to foreign potentates in an attempt to tie his hands and usurp his legal authority to set policy.
See, the military doesn’t take orders from Bolton or Pompeo. So when those two were running around yapping at everybody that they needn’t worry, it wasn’t happening, Trump probably picked up the phone in a fit of pique and told the Joint Chiefs to get hopping, right f*#%ing now, and of course that’s just what they’re going to do. They might have been happy, in the past, to comply with the President’s directives in a manner set by Mattis, but with the General gone, and the Commander-in-Chief barking direct and unequivocal orders straight into their ringing ears, they’re going to do as they’re told.
Maybe something is being worked out behind the scenes to stop the Turks from annihilating America’s stalwart Kurdish allies, but I’m struggling to imagine what. Erdogan, it seems, refused to even meet with Bolton, who was politely invited by some underling to go do something painful with a wire brush when the possibility of laying off the Kurds was floated. Trapped between a rock and a hard place, the poor Kurds might have to cut some sort of protection deal with Syrian or Iranian proxy forces, giving up all dreams of an independent enclave within which they can, at last, live with dignity under nobody’s thumb, which is better than being murdered, I guess, but not a whole hell of a lot. If not that, I’m out of ideas. Maybe somebody’s working on a solution beyond my present imagination. Maybe the Russians will find it useful to step in. I’m at a loss.
This is just godawful. If Trump wasn’t already running on a skeleton crew, he’d probably fire both Bolton and Pompeo, the clowns, and under any normal administration it would indeed be both righteous and imperative to run the both of them out of town on a rail for their insubordination. This shows you how dangerous things are in the Trump White House. His National Security Advisor and Secretary of State appear to have thought they could publicly end-run him and effectively cut him out of the foreign policy process. Things cannot start to work that way. A superpower simply can’t safely be governed with multiple passengers clawing at each other’s eyes while trying to grab the wheel. You end up swerving all over the mountain road, and odds are pretty good you go over a cliff. I deplore Trump’s decision, but there’s a larger issue of ensuring that everybody, foreign and domestic, knows who’s in charge at all times, and that some semblance of an orderly facade is presented to the world. There are those out there who’d be delighted to exploit chaos and weakness in America’s foreign policy apparatus. There are those at home who might veer perilously close to mounting what starts to look like a coup. God save us. This has to be brought to an end.
Meanwhile, if terrible things are to be avoided over there, it will be on account of luck, not policy. At least, not US policy.
Look, for all I know there’s yet another policy reversal in the works. Or maybe these announced steps towards pulling out are actually just the sort of slow-walking, passive-aggressive non-obedience I’m advocating. Who knows any more? Any way you look at it, though, this is no way to run a choo-choo.
I probably could have composed this post as a wordless photo essay, thusly: