Donald Trump appears to be a bit confused about the situation on the ground in Syria. He tweeted that ISIS still needs to be fought, while noting that he is making the decision that the United States won’t be helping to fight ISIS anymore, unless of course ISIS attacks the United States, which is apparently a risk Donald Trump is willing to take:
….Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us. I am building by far the most powerful military in the world. ISIS hits us they are doomed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
However, just the day before that tweet, he had said that ISIS had been defeated:
We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
So, which is it? Has ISIS been defeated, or do they still need to be fought by other countries? Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know.
And now, Donald Trump has kindly explained to everyone part of the reason why he doesn’t know what is going on with ISIS: he doesn’t even know who the top U.S. diplomat assigned to the fight against ISIS even is, a man who just resigned in protest over Donald Trump’s irresponsible actions in the fight against ISIS:
Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2018
Donald Trump has tweeted about ISIS hundreds of times. He made a promise during the 2016 Presidential campaign that he would wipe out ISIS in 30 days. Yet, in two years as President, he has never taken the time to familiarize himself with the top U.S. diplomat tasked with fighting ISIS? This admission is mind boggling.
A host of politicians and former government officials have responded to Trump’s admission of ignorance with both utter disbelief and despair, including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice:
The fact that you say you don’t know @brett_mcgurk speaks volumes about your commitment to fighting ISIS @realDonaldTrump. Why don’t you know the man who has done more than any civilian to degrade ISIS? I can assure you @BarackObama knows him well. https://t.co/OzvKRrmVF5
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) December 23, 2018
To backup Susan Rice’s tweet, here is a photo of Barack Obama meeting with Brett McGurk, the top diplomat assigned to the fight against ISIS:
The truth is likely that Donald Trump does not even care about ISIS. The truth is likely that Donald Trump is withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria because he promised Vladimir Putin that he would do that. Vladimir Putin has made no secret of the fact that Russia is allied with the murderous tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who is President of Syria and has been fighting a civil war against U.S. backed rebel groups for the last 7 years.
Donald Trump appears to have made a deal with Vladimir Putin during the 2016 election. Vladimir Putin and Russia would provide Donald Trump with assistance in defeating, or even just weakening the candidacy of, Hillary Clinton. Vladimir Putin would also give Donald Trump the green light to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In return, Donald Trump would help legitimize Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Donald Trump would work to lift U.S. sanctions against Russia that were instituted by Barack Obama. And Donald Trump would allow Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad to reassert control over the areas of Syria that had been lost to U.S. backed rebels.
Donald Trumps withdrawal of U.S. troops is likely just a case of fulfilling that promise to Vladimir Putin. It goes against all the advice Donald Trump was reportedly given by his State Department and Department of Defense. And Donald Trump doesn’t even have a consistent reasoning: ISIS is defeated, no wait, ISIS isn’t defeated, but somebody else needs to fight against them now.
Whatever you believe about how the U.S. became involved in the conflict in Syria, the U.S. is involved, and ISIS has not been defeated. Maybe the U.S. shouldn’t have gotten involved in Syria years ago. Maybe the U.S. shouldn’t have backed rebel groups that have been fighting against Bashar al-Assad. But, it happened. The U.S. has provided support to those rebel groups, including the Kurds, for years now. And the Kurds have been helping the U.S. fight ISIS. To withdraw support now is to completely sell them out, and leave them at the mercy of Bashar al-Assad, the Russians, and the Turks, who are now threatening to “bury” the Kurds.
In fact, Turkey is now massing troops at the Syrian border, not to fight ISIS, but to fight the Kurds, who have been perhaps the most stalwart allies of the U.S in the fight against ISIS. If Turkey starts fighting the Kurds, who have been fighting ISIS along with us, who is going to fight against ISIS?
If the U.S. withdraws its troops from an overseas theater of war, it should do so through a negotiated settlement that includes some assurances that stability in the region will result after the U.S. withdrawal.
Instead, Donald Trump is announcing a unilateral withdrawal without receiving any assurances in return from Syria, Russia, or Turkey. This is extremely irresponsible. In fact, it is so irresponsible that it has prompted the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who submitted a letter of resignation that contained a stinging rebuke of Donald Trump:
Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned on Thursday, writing in an unsparing letter that he was stepping down because the president had “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Mattis’s resignation comes a day after President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, and his resignation letter notes the differences in Mattis’s worldview compared to Trump’s.
In the letter, Mattis reiterates his “core belief” in America’s alliance and partnerships, specifically NATO, and America’s need to be “resolute and unambiguous” in challenging countries such as China and Russia.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion on these issues,” Mattis wrote. “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
James Mattis resignation letter made it clear that his views did not align with the views of Donald Trump, and that the views of James Mattis were that our allies should be treated with respect and that we should be wary of foreign adversaries. In saying that, James Mattis also makes it clear that he does not believe Donald Trump wants to treat our allies with respect and he does not believe Donald Trump is sufficiently wary of our adversaries. As General Mattis’ resignation letter points out, he has been informed of these views by over four decades of experience. Contrast that with Donald Trump, whose career has consisted of being a real estate developer, failed casino magnate, and reality TV star.
This action of Trump’s with regards to Syria certainly stands out as an example of what James Mattis denounced in his resignation letter: not treating allies (the Kurds) with respect, and not being sufficiently wary of our adversaries (Russia).
The Trump administration continues to spiral downward. An average of four White House employees per month have quit or resigned since Trump took office. Almost every important cabinet official has been pushed out either due to a dispute with Donald Trump or due to scandal. Every organization that has been led by Donald Trump is under criminal investigation. Donald Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be completely unfit for the position he currently holds, both in temperament and in competence.
The chaos that has whirled around Donald Trump has now reached a real breaking point: our national security. It is well past time that Republicans in the Senate and House sober up to what is happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and start putting our country before their political party. It is well past time that Donald Trump be impeached.