In President Trump’s telling Wednesday, his withdrawal of all but a few U.S. forces from Syria makes good on his promise to shake off the sand of faraway Middle East conflicts, and to let other countries play policeman for a change.
Trump hopes his decision will please his most loyal political supporters, who tend to love it when he pokes a finger in the eye of the naysayers. Thus, Trump proudly owned what his critics see as a debacle born of willful ignorance.
He declared a “major breakthrough” as a U.S.-backed cease-fire along the Syrian-Turkish border largely held, and claimed that he is saving American and Kurdish lives while pulling the plug on indefinite U.S. military commitments.
Even close political allies of Trump’s have called it a blunder to abandon Syrian Kurdish allies and open the door to Russian and Turkish control of a strategic crossroads between the Middle East and Europe.
But Trump has taken to wearing their scorn as a badge of honor — evidence not that he has made a foolish decision but that he is breaking with foreign policy conventions he has derided as costing too much treasure and lives in pursuit of high-minded internationalist ideals anathema to his nationalist world view.
“As a candidate for president, I made clear that we needed a new approach to American foreign policy, one guided not by ideology, but by experience, history, and a realistic understanding of the world,” he said from a lectern in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room.