Trump Flying by the Seat of His Pants on Syria. Again.

Trump Flying by the Seat of His Pants on Syria. Again. December 20, 2018

Trump’s unshakable confidence in his “gut” to make decisions is once more rearing its ugly head as he announced very abruptly on Wednesday that he has ordered American troops in Syria withdrawn. Neither the Pentagon or the State Department seemed to have any clue this was coming and they’re now scrambling, as they so often have under Trump, to make sense of it. My former colleague Spencer Ackerman reports:

President Donald Trump may have declared the so-called Islamic State “defeated,” sparking talk of a U.S. withdrawal from the former ISIS stronghold of northeastern Syria. But administration officials, several of whom were taken by surprise, indicated an effort was underway to stop or slow a pullout…

The State Department cancelled its scheduled press briefing. At the Pentagon, where officials on Wednesday signaled to the Wall Street Journal and CNN that preparations for a “full” withdrawal were underway, Defense Secretary James Mattis refused to answer questions.

As happens so often, Trump apparently work up with a burr under his saddle, or perhaps he saw something on Fox and Friends that triggered some lonely synapse in his brain, and made a snap decision without consulting his own national security team, the Pentagon or the State Department. In Trumpworld, there is only gut instinct, not thoughtfulness. He despises expertise and believes himself to be totally infallible, so there’s never any need to actually study or consider options. The knee jerks, the twitter thumb reacts and everyone else in the government is left scrambling to pick up the pieces.

I don’t know whether pulling out of Syria is a good or bad idea. Reasonable people can disagree on that, I think. But we should all be able to agree that this is no way to decide important policy matters. We might as well ask a magic 8-ball or paw through goat entrails.

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