Hawks Cheer and Doves Cry as Trump Fails to Follow Through on Syrian Withdrawal

For now the U.S. stays stuck in Syria.


Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/Newscom

President Donald Trump has again failed to follow through on his sporadically promising rhetoric about rolling back U.S. intervention abroad.

Last Thursday, Trump told a crowd in Ohio that the United States would be "coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now." This was followed on Friday by a freeze on $200 million in Syrian reconstruction spending, and on Tuesday by Trump declaring that our primary mission in Syria "was getting rid of ISIS…we've completed that task and we'll be making a decision very quickly."

Yet Trump was reportedly dissuaded from an immediate Syrian withdrawal at a Tuesday meeting of his National Security Council. An unnamed senior White House official tells Reuters that the president left the impression that he now "would like to withdraw in a year or less."

We'll see if he follows through on that. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has argued for a continued U.S. presence in Syria even after ISIS is gone. Mike Pompeo, Trump's reliably hawkish incoming secretary of state, and John Bolton, his even more hawkish incoming national security advisor, have expressed similar sentiments.

Anti-interventionist Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) lambasted Pompeo and Bolton on Twitter today, urging Trump to "to go with HIS instincts, not their bad advice, or he will be in these places forever."

While a candidate, Trump was skeptical about several U.S. interventions, arguing against regime change in Syria, attacking the Obama administration's intervention in Libya, demanding an end to the war in Afghanistan, and calling the Iraq War "a big fat mistake."

Since he became president, few of these views have been converted into concrete policy. Instead, Trump promptly ordered a missile strike against a Syrian military base; in August he followed up by sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. has conducted eight drone strikes in Libya under Trump, and the U.S. and its allies have conducted about 10,000 air strikes in Iraq and Syria since Trump was inaugurated. Some 2,000 American troops are currently fighting in Syria.

Trump is hardly the first president to fail to live up to his promises of a less interventionist foreign policy. Barack Obama won election in no small part because he spoke skeptically about U.S. intervention in the Middle East. In office he proceeded to escalate an existing war in Afghanistan and start a new one in Libya.

In his 2000 campaign for president, George W. Bush said America should be a "humble" nation whose role was not to "go around the world saying this is the way it's got to be." That didn't quite work out as planned.

Trump's pledge to forgo "nation-building" has always been paired with a willingness to use military force against a constantly hyped terrorist threat. The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald summed up this dichotomy nicely last year, describing Trump's foreign policy worldview as a desire to "fight fewer wars and for narrower reasons, but be more barbaric and criminal in prosecuting the ones that are fought."

It thus becomes increasingly easy for the GOP's hawks to convince the ever-mercurial Trump that his desire to pull U.S. troops out of the Middle East will have to wait as long as more terrorists wait in the wings.

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  1. “”Last Thursday, Trump told a crowd in Ohio that the United States would be “coming out of Syria like very soon””

    In all fairness, liberals have been telling us we will see the evidence of election hacking soon.

    Soon seems to mean between 6 months or never.

  2. That milk carton out of which Britches was drinking as he typed this up had my shocked face on it.

    1. Britches does seem like the kind of guy who’d drink milk directly from the carton, doesn’t he.

      He probably wouldn’t close it correctly before putting it back in the fridge either.

  3. Are comments on delay again.

    1. I am having a delay issue.


    President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria but has not set a date for them to do so, according to a senior administration official.

    In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, the official said.

    But the president said that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State, and that he expects other countries, particularly wealthy Arab states in the region, to pick up the task of paying for ongoing stabilization and reconstruction, including sending their own troops, if necessary.

    In a statement Wednesday morning, the White House said that the “military mission .?.?. in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed. The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.”

    Maybe the Post are just deplorables in the tank for Trump or something.

    1. We have to believe everything trump says, unless it’s inconvenient for the narrative.

    2. They’ll be “withdrawn” to some other foreign base no doubt. It’s not like we’re not spending record amounts on the military. Trump isn’t saving shit. The money is already spent. Iran is on the menu. Russia probably gets something if Iran goes down.

      1. Versus spending record amounts on welfare. But the difference here is the both the real spending and %gdp spent on welfare are at record levels and are increasing with no end in sight.

        Operational tempo has a huge impact on spending. I’m unsurprised you don’t understand that.

  5. Yet Trump was reportedly dissuaded from an immediate Syrian withdrawal at a Tuesday meeting of his National Security Council.

    That meeting with the experts. Even the most peace-loving president will come out of there with dove blood dribbling down his chin.

  6. Hawks Cheer and Doves Cry as Trump Fails to Follow Through on Syrian Withdrawal.

    Trump will withdraw US troops from Syria, but first we all have to purify ourselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

    1. The zebra mussels make that possible today. Wasn’t true when originally spoken.

      1. Well, yes. But also, “THAT’S NOT LAKE MINNETONKA”.

        1. Why must we scream at each other??

          1. If zebra mussels can spread to dominate our lakes without screaming, so can we spread our ideas without doing so.

          2. Literally what I was here to say

            1. Most of my comments are hackneyed bromides.

              1. Maybe we’re just too demanding.

    2. There’s nothing pure in or above Lake Minnetonka, and that’s the way we like it.

  7. the ever-mercurial Trump

    I guess that’s one way to describe somebody who seems to change his opinions based on the opinions of whoever talked to him last. Another way to describe him would be an ignoramus too lazy to be bothered with actually studying an issue for more than 12 seconds, maybe attempt to develop an informed opinion of his own, before spouting off about how he knows more than anybody else about the subject.

    1. Well, he has formed an opinion on Rosie O’Donnell. I doubt it would change – even after spending time with a Rosie defender.

      My guess is that he would still call her a slob.

  8. This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.

    1. What does it sound like when doves scream? Crusty knows, for they do whenever they alight atop the chinchilla cage where he lays his scene.

  9. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald summed up this dichotomy nicely last year, describing Trump’s foreign policy worldview as a desire to “fight fewer wars and for narrower reasons, but be more barbaric and criminal in prosecuting the ones that are fought.”

    Is Russian way.

    1. Goddammit, Tony, this thread is for Prince references, not conspiracy theories. Get it together.

      1. I don’t know what it sounds like when doves cry, but we’ll find out what it sounds like when hawks cry soon when Trump forces John Bolton to shave his mustache off.

        1. Bolton is like a shark. Behind his mustache is another mustache, ready to assume its place should the first mustache be lost; behind that is another mustache, and so on in continuous succession.

          1. Was Bolton with the shirts or blouses?

        2. It’s the sound I’m making when I’m dropping my son off at First Ave and then I go home to watch old seasons of Agents of Shield. I used to have a life…

      2. The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.

        1. And none of them will mess with a porcupine.

  10. only a tiny bit off topic, I actually really liked the like children’s choir version of that song in (Baz Luhrmann’s?) Romeo and Juliet. The one with Leonardo Dicaprio.

  11. Anything short of ‘firing missiles at Russian aircraft’ means that, sadly, Trump continues to be the better pick of Presidents for the Syria conflict.

    1. Oh that was a particularly good bit of facebook talking point bullshit. It was both Russia-bred propaganda and whining on behalf of Russians. Good shit right there.

      1. I had no idea Russia had written and directed a Hillary speech…

        1. Yeah all the bullshit talking points were tethered to reality in some way. That’s how propaganda works. The big lie is in how a Democratic government would be worse warmongers than a Republican one. That’s obviously ridiculous, even with “rogue” Trump, who’s murdering civilians at unprecedented rates (exactly as he campaigned on).

          1. …it’s as obvious as Clinton’s foray into Bosnia, eh?

            Sorry, but ‘Democrats’ as a party enjoy war just as much as Republicans. They just claim they don’t, even while bombing the fuck out of people.

            Also, remind me again which party had the Presidency during World War 1 and World War 2, two of the biggest wars in the planets history?

            1. Also Clinton was bombing Iraq for violations of the no fly zone.

          2. Oh, and ‘unprecedented’ rates of civilian deaths is something you didn’t hold against the previous President so why start caring now?

          3. From the link.

            “Last night, the US military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Assad controlled al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs, killing at least five and injuring many more.

            Hours earlier, Clinton had called for strikes on military targets in Syria while speaking at a Women in the World Summit in New York.

            Clinton reiterated how she had favored a tougher approach against Assad when she was Secretary of State.

            She said: ‘I believed then, that we should’ve done more at the point. These are not easy decisions that’s why you want to get the best info you can … I then did promote a no-fly zone, I still believe we should’ve done a no-fly zone. I think we should have been more willing to confront Assad.’

            She added: ‘I really believe we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.’

            Hillary for Airstrikes

  12. ISIS is still in Syria. In fact, when Turkey attacked the Kurds, ISIS took advantage of the distraction by re-taking ground that had been held by the Syrian government. Also, Iran is at least as dangerous as ISIS, and their power in Syria is now increased, after ISIS has been decimated.

    Non-interventionism is not a feature of libertarianism, and cannot be logically derived from the non-initiation of force principle.

  13. “fight fewer wars and for narrower reasons, but be more barbaric and criminal in prosecuting the ones that are fought.”

    Fight fewer wars, but fight to win. Sounds rather sensible.

  14. Pertemuan itu dengan para ahli. Bahkan presiden yang paling cinta damai akan keluar dari sana dengan darah merpati menetes di dagunya.

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