It’s a very stable genius move to do something abroad that’s sure to piss off your own party in Congress, including some of your top sycophants, ahead of an impeachment hearing and trial.
Is this the breaking point for Lindsey? Probably not. Probably he’ll conclude that his mistake was not kissing the president’s ass effusively enough these past few years, and that if only he reapplies himself with twice the vigor going forward he’ll make a hawk of Trump yet. But I don’t know. Eventually it has to dawn on him that shedding his dignity to become Trump’s chief apologist has gotten him next to nothing on foreign policy. Maduro’s still in power; we’re getting jerked around by North Korea; Trump’s made it clear that he wants no part of an attack on Iran; and now here he is clearing out of northern Syria to make Erdogan’s task a bit easier in genociding the Kurds, who were the tip of the western spear against ISIS inside the country for the past five years. What exactly is Graham’s reward for serving as Trump’s political caddy?
Right, I know: “He’s getting reelected to the Senate.” What a treat to have a safe seat from which you lack the power to influence anything, even when a friendly Republican is in the White House.
He’s talking tough today, for what it’s worth.
Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey – if necessary – would be veto-proof.
This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
Is he right? Could sanctions on Turkey pass both chambers with veto-proof two-thirds majorities? Fair shot in the Senate, I’d say, given that denunciations of Trump’s move range from staunch allies like Graham to adversaries like Romney…
The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster. https://t.co/Tu8ARa8Pmp
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) October 7, 2019
…to in-betweeners like Ben Sasse, who’s caught between needing to maintain Trump’s endorsement in his primary and needing to protect his image as a non-Trumpy old-fashioned conservative:
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued the following statement regarding the Administration’s announced retreat from the Syria-Turkey border.
“If the President sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children. I hope the President will listen to his generals and reconsider. And before Turkey butchers innocent Kurds, Erdogan should carefully consider his privileged status as a NATO member. The American people don’t partner with genocidal regimes.”
They can get 67 in the Senate. I’m less convinced they can get 290 in the House. They’d need more than 50 Republicans for that, possibly many more since some progressive Democrats may feel queasy about taking punitive action stemming from a withdrawal of U.S. troops. Doves are supposed to *support* withdrawal, right? Trump will be twisting arms among House Republicans too, warning them that voting with the Dems to embarrass him by sanctioning Turkey will earn them some attention on the presidential Twitter account ahead of their House primaries next year.
On the other hand, Liz Cheney is already rallying the troops to resist Trump on this. She’s in the same bind Graham is — a stalwart hawk who’s nonetheless eager for Trump’s support ahead of an election, namely the open Senate seat in Wyoming. How far does Cheney want to go in crossing him?
Even if Republicans managed to pass sanctions with veto-proof majorities in both chambers, how would they get Trump to implement them? He’s ignored them before, remember. They passed sanctions on Russia related to Putin’s interference in the 2016 campaign (with veto-proof majorities) and later passed separate sanctions targeting Russia over the Skripal poisoning in the UK. In both cases Trump simply stuck the sanctions in a drawer, leaving Congress exasperated. Now that the Overton window has moved towards impeachment, I wonder what happens if Turkey sanctions make it through Congress with veto-proof majorities and Trump once again decides to blow them off. Do they impeach, or threaten to impeach, on grounds that he’s not taking care to faithfully execute federal law?
The harshest criticism of Trump this morning came not from a member of Congress but from his own former top envoy in the war on ISIS, Brett McGurk. McGurk was a holdover from Obama’s administration whom Trump kept on for nearly two years, until McGurk resigned in protest along with James Mattis over Trump’s initial decision last year to withdraw from Syria. You can read his entire thread on today’s decision here but this will give you the flavor:
The WH statement tonight on Syria after Trump spoke with Erdogan demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground. The “United States” is not holding any ISIS detainees. They are all being held by the SDF, which Trump just served up to Turkey. pic.twitter.com/vYr7j0q6mR
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) October 7, 2019
ISIS prisoners potentially released, a new pretext for deeper Iranian involvement in Syria, and a lot of dead Kurds: Can it really be true, as McGurk claims, that Trump made a decision like that without deliberation? Well…
Pentagon ‘completely blindsided’ by White House order to pull U.S. forces back from northern Syria green-lighting Turkish invasion: U.S. officials
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) October 7, 2019
Tomlinson doesn’t work for CNN, MSNBC, or some other overtly anti-Trump outfit. He reports for Fox News.
As for the president himself, he’s answering his critics on Twitter today by sounding like a Bond villain who’s been huffing paint. “In my great and unmatched wisdom”?
Who told him that he’s obliterated the Turkish economy once before? Did he get confused watching a Tucker Carlson foreign-policy segment again? If he means he’s done it before to another country, i.e. Iran, what makes him think Turkey will be as easy to damage as Iran was? China’s been holding out amid his trade war pressure.
As for those who say that Trump’s being true to his worldview, which is to end U.S. involvement in wars, that may or may not end up being true. The core argument by hawks against today’s move is that the chaos unleashed by a Turkish/Kurdish war will be a gift to ISIS, necessitating a future U.S. incursion into Mesopotamia. What does Trump say to that? Turns out he’s okay with it. If we need to redeploy and start “blasting” again, that’s just what we’ll do.
“There are many potential disastrous outcomes to this,” said a U.S. official to WaPo about the prospect of Turkey’s attack degrading security at Kurdish-run prison camps holding ISIS fighters. Mark Esper and Mark Milley should think about resigning soon, not necessarily out of protest but because Trump will naturally begin to search for scapegoats when this goes bad and, as SecDef and Joint Chiefs Chair, they’re the most logical targets. In the meantime, the president’s no doubt counting the hours until Tucker’s monologue tonight assuring him that feeding the Kurds into Erdogan’s wood chipper was the only responsible move for a good nationalist.