Brian Kilmeade to Sarah Sanders: Let's face it, Trump just re-founded ISIS

Alternate headline: “Fox & Friends joins the Resistance.”

This is the third day in a row that a host of the president’s favorite show has unloaded on him on air for troop withdrawals. Credit to Brian Kilmeade (and Fox) for not pulling his punches despite pressure from his audience to conform and a keen awareness that the commander-in-chief was probably watching.

Although if this keeps up, I’d bet on “Fox & Friends” having one less friend next year.

Spare a thought too for poor Sarah Sanders. Instead of making straightforward defenses of Trump’s policy — “Americans are tired of war and don’t understand what our national interest is in Syria” — she’s forced for whatever strange reason to resort to inanities like this:

Putin said publicly within the past 36 hours that he agrees with Trump’s decision to withdraw. Russian state media is chipper about it. And ISIS doesn’t threaten Russia, or at least doesn’t need to. Surely an agreement can be reached between the axis of Assad and the jihadis to leave them unmolested in some small enclave of Syria provided that they steer their jihad towards mutual enemies like the United States. Even if it can’t, sporadic battles with ISIS is a price Russia and Iran should be willing to pay to have the United States out of their way in the region. Kilmeade’s criticism is harsh and hyperbolic (although he’s playing off of Trump’s own hyperbole) but more reasonable than Sanders’s spin.

Our media is strongly pro-intervention and even more strongly anti-Trump so the reaction to withdrawal from Syria and Mattis resigning was destined to be grim. But … it’s really grim.

Imagine the Kurds’ surprise upon discovering that Donald Trump isn’t trustworthy. Anyway, you may be wondering how this whole thing started. Trump’s always been skeptical of a U.S. presence in Syria (or anywhere, really) but what triggered his decision to retreat this week? Was it really as cynical as him grasping for a distraction from shutdown politics? Nah, reports the AP. It was a matter of Erdogan nudging him to follow through on withdrawal during a phone call — and Trump then responding so enthusiastically that Erdogan had to get him to slow down.

Erdogan … quickly put Trump on the defensive, reminding him that he had repeatedly said the only reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State and that the group had been 99 percent defeated. “Why are you still there?” the second official said Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that the Turks could deal with the remaining IS militants…

Bolton stressed … that the entire national security team agreed that victory over IS had to be enduring, which means more than taking away its territory.

Trump was not dissuaded, according to the officials, who said the president quickly capitulated by pledging to withdraw, shocking both Bolton and Erdogan.

Caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. While Turkey has made incursions into Syria in the past, it does not have the necessary forces mobilized on the border to move in and hold the large swaths of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are positioned, the official said.

Trump’s decision was “made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, according to U.S. and Turkish officials,” the AP notes. Which is bad news even if you support withdrawal on the merits. A careful deliberative process with plenty of Pentagon input would have been useful to Trump down the road if/when ISIS makes a comeback in Syria. He’ll be blamed anyway — that’s the nature of the job — but at least he’d be able to say that the withdrawal wasn’t slapdash. The military had time to plan and consider contingencies! As it is, because he lunged towards doing it, it’s a double whammy politically if Kilmeade’s worst fears are realized. And it’ll be used by hawks in future cases as an alleged object lesson that withdrawal is always bad.

It boggles my mind that a year from now John Bolton’s international legacy may be his role in overseeing a series of momentous U.S. withdrawals, with consequences for the Middle East and Korean peninsula that we can only scarcely imagine right now. How come Bolton didn’t resign in protest too?