Trump's sudden announcement on Syria confused American agencies and leaders. But Vladimir Putin praised it loudly.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump announced that America would be withdrawing the 2,000 troops in Syria. The major foreign policy initiative came as a surprise to both the Department of Defense and the State Department, the two departments who would be tasked with executing Trump's whims.
Defending his latest amateurish blunder on foreign policy, Trump tweeted, "Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says."
But Putin does like it. A lot. Speaking to reporters, the Russian leader said Trump had made "the right decision," and went on to slam the actions of American soldiers on the ground in the region.
The episode once again has put Trump and Putin together, with Americans on the other side. Putin's efforts to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 election by pushing for Trump's victory continue to pay dividends for the autocratic Russian.
Government officials, on the other hand, was blindsided by the announcement.
When a Vox reporter asked the State Department for details on the announcement, they were directed to ask the White House and Pentagon. But a White House official directed them to the Pentagon. The outlet concluded, "The president made a decision involving America's troops and the parts of his administration most closely involved in executing that decision have no earthly idea what to do about it."
Trump didn't tell congressional leaders about the major foreign policy shift either.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee said, "I have no idea what's going on." Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Armed Services committee said, "I did not know and I think I should have been [notified]."
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking member on Armed Services, said, "I don't think it is the culmination of a careful policy review, in fact I think many of our foreign policy officials might have been taken by surprise."
Trump's leading congressional apologist and golfing buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) admitted, "this is chaos."
Even the right-wing propagandists at Fox News, who regularly cheerlead Trump, seemed taken aback. Host Brian Kilmeade called the decision "stunning and irresponsible," and said Trump has "blindsided his secretary of defense, his national security adviser, people on the outside who have been advising him, including Gen. Jack Keane, as well as his State Department."
The advice of his own Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, appeared to have been disregarded. Mattis wanted a continued U.S. presence in the region, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post.
"President Trump's decision to abruptly withdraw troops from Syria is a clear rebuke to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the last remaining member of a retinue of military men Trump once fondly called 'my generals,'" the paper noted.
Trump hasn't demonstrated any interest or concern about the details of foreign policy, even though his decisions affect the safety of millions of Americans, especially those in the military on the front lines.
His chaotic decisions play right into the desires of his political benefactor, Putin, while America is left to deal with the negative — and possibly deadly — fallout.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.