News Roundup

1. Acting Secretary of Defense Kurt Schlichter

At the beginning of the year, I warned about the beginnings of the Trumpocalypse. At the time, Trump had chased out some of the last few serious national security professionals in his administration through an impulsive and ill-advised announcement that he was going to withdraw the small number of remaining US troops coordinating the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Here’s how I put it:

The problem is not just the decision itself, though I agree with David French that if we declare victory and go home now, we’re probably going to have to come back later under less favorable conditions. More recently, National Security Advisor John Bolton seems to agree, describing the withdrawal as being on a “timetable” that is dependent on other factors, such as the fact that Turkey’s intervention in Syria must guarantee the safety of the Kurds. If you understand the history of the region, you understand that this is a great recipe for signaling American weakness and lack of resolve while not actually withdrawing our troops—the worst of both worlds.

What is more important than the withdrawal itself is the fact that it was done against the advice of Trump’s top military advisors and without coordinating with them. This decision, as with many other major policy initiatives, was made by tweet.

That announcement was eventually walked back by Trump’s remaining advisors, but now John Bolton is gone, so Trump did it again, only worse. Rather than announcing a US withdrawal on our schedule, he did it to make way for a brutal Turkish invasion of Kurdish territory, after a phone call in which he warned Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the operation, Erdogan called Trump’s bluff, and Trump backed down. Trump’s sudden reversal, once again by tweet, blindsided the Pentagon and all of his national security staff.

Moreover, the Turks are kind of rubbing it in.

On Friday night, the Pentagon announced that a group of American troops had narrowly avoided being hit by Turkish artillery fire in Kobani, a border town, despite providing their coordinates to Turkey. United States military officials said privately that they were convinced Turkish forces had deliberately targeted the area to encourage the American military to leave.

But wait, it gets worse.

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