Without a plan or strategy, Trump ordered US troops to withdraw from Syria — a move that has antagonized members within his own party. No matter, though, as his eyes are set firmly on re-election, says Oliver Sallet.
Not only is it rare for Democrats and Republicans to agree, but the situation in Washington has a decidedly revolutionary touch, with politicians from both parties sharply condemning President Donald Trump's rash withdrawal from Syria — a novelty in a time of political trench warfare over an impeachment process.
And that's exactly what it's all about: Trump is in panic mode, and apparently even willing to scare off his own party in a desperate attempt at populist foreign policy. The majority of Americans are tired of war — and they are the ones Trump has in mind with his decision.
Trump made himself vulnerable
Trump has for years shrugged off criticism and considers himself invincible — even openly admitting it at one point when he said: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." But Republicans' reactions over the Syria withdrawal show that Trump has made himself vulnerable.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's most staunch supporters against impeachment proceedings, made clear that he stands against the move.
Election campaign maneuver
Even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who until recently had doubts as to whether he would allow impeachment proceedings against Trump at all, was suddenly openly critical.
But Trump isn't fazed by this. Under massive pressure, the commander in chief urgently needs success, and, above all, he needs issues that distract people from the looming impeachment proceedings. His approval ratings are down, so the withdrawal of troops from Syria seems to be coming at the right time.
Read more: Opinion: The Kurds lose out again
Trump looks no further than the 2020 election
Quite frankly, that's not surprising. As early as 2018, he decided to go against his advisors and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis by withdrawing troops from Syria. Mattis resigned in protest.
Trump simply doesn't care about the regional and geopolitical consequences of the withdrawal and the emerging power vacuum that Turkey, Russia and Iran are happy to fill. The re-election he hopes for is still about a year off, and that's as far as Trump's horizon goes. The withdrawal of troops was, and is, a key election campaign promise — no matter the cost.