Who is going to sign up with us?

Why Trump’s sudden Syria move was such a catastrophically bad idea:

As President Trump defends his decision to pull away some U.S. troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, the president’s former envoy for the fight against the so-called Islamic State is raising alarms about how potentially destabilizing the move can be for the region.

Brett McGurk, who resigned from Trump’s national security team in December and also served in the Obama and Bush administrations, tells NPR that Trump making such a drastic announcement shortly after speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned a vital foreign policy decision into a potential crisis.

“Presidents do a lot of things, but the most consequential are decisions of war and peace like this, and you can’t make decisions on a haphazard basis after a single call with a foreign leader,” McGurk says on NPR’s Morning Edition on Tuesday. “This is almost unprecedented.”

On a haphazard basis and all by yourself. Normal presidents don’t do that; not ever.

Trump’s decision to give Turkey more room to operate at the border contradicts recommendations from top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department. It’s also raising concerns that a Turkish invasion into northern Syria could endanger U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, leave thousands of jihadist prisoners unguarded — and even lead to a new strengthening of the Islamic State.

See a normal president would care what top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department said because they know a lot about it. A normal president would want to pool the knowledge of a lot of people as opposed to just assuming he (definitely he, not she) knows more than they do. A normal president understands that knowledge isn’t a thing that you just magically have but something you accumulate over time by putting in the work, and that no one person can have more than all the experts in a field combined. Trump skips all that and just assumes he knows best.

Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces has a dire assessment. He tells NPR on Tuesday that he worries the troop withdrawal would trigger an attack by Turkey that could lead to “ethnic cleansing.”

“The Turks are going to attack. And they’ve been preparing for a long time,” Kobani Abdi says, speaking through his own interpreter on NPR’s Morning Edition. “The Turks, doing their invasion, they’re going to penetrate the border, they’re going to invade, and they’re going to take apart Syria soil or Syrian territory. And in the border area, there is millions of people who are living there.”

“And the Turkish are going to target the Kurdish communities especially and they are going to do ethnic cleansing to them and they are going to change the demography,” Kobani Abdi says.

Does that seem wildly unlikely? No.

Trump says he will punish Turkey if it does anything “off limits.” And he says he’s preserving U.S. military options by calling for American troops to leave the Syrian border. In defending his decision, Trump tweeted that the U.S. “can always go back & BLAST!” if the Islamic State regroups.

“Actually, you can’t,” McGurk said in response to the president’s tweet. “Who is going to sign up with us? Who is going to fight with us?”

That would be nobody. Sign up to fight with a country that can run away at any moment with no consultation and no warning, but just on the orders of one broken monster of a man? No thank you sir.

“The Russians are listening to this. The Iranians are listening this. This Assad regime are listening to this,” McGurk says. “It increases the risk for personnel out there in the field, and it increases the risk for our country because it will be harder for us to work with allies. The value of an American handshake really depreciates when you make decisions like this.”

The value of an American handshake is probably right about zero at this point.

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