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Trump’s Jacksonian Syria Withdrawal
Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Trump’s Jacksonian Syria Withdrawal

Walter Russell Mead

Under investigation for impeachment he may be, but President Trump can still shake the world with his tweets. Explaining his decision to pull U.S. troops away from the Turkish-Syrian border at the cost of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and open the way for Turkish forces to create what Ankara calls a “safety zone,” President Trump tweeted early Monday that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”

Hitting the caps-lock button, Mr. Trump went on to restate one of his bedrock beliefs, and a cornerstone of Jacksonian foreign-policy thinking: “WE WILL ONLY FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” As for concerns that a U.S. withdrawal would allow Islamic State to re-form, Mr. Trump was dismissive. “We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”

Criticism of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal decision has been intense, with prominent supporters like Sen. Lindsey Graham and former officials like Nikki Haley joining longtime opponents of the White House. Much of that criticism is justified, and the erratic nature of Trump-era policy making, as well as the often-unpredictable policy mix that results, are undercutting American prestige and influence in much of the world. But not all of the problems dogging the Trump administration Middle East policy are caused by Mr. Trump’s sometimes idiosyncratic views or policy-making style. As two other news stories from the Middle East last week make clear, the American position in the region is an odd mix of dominance and impotence that makes good policy making hard—and that makes the task of building domestic support for smart policy even harder.

Read the full article in Wall Street Journal

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