A portrait in multiple failures

If even half the information contained in this portrait of President Trump and his generals is true, we cannot escape two conclusions. First, Trump never had what it took to cross the Rubicon. Second, both China and Russia will destroy the US military in the next major conflict. Forget Afghanistan. Forget Iran. Forget the Mexican cartels. These inept so-called generals are capable of losing a war to Canadian lumberjacks armed with axes:

Trump had come to rue the August 2017 speech in which he had announced a new troop surge into Afghanistan. He thoroughly resented Mattis, McMaster and the others who had urged him to adopt a strategy that he considered a waste of time, money, and more American lives.

McMaster was replaced in March 2018 and Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, was a notorious advocate for U.S. military interventionism. But even he believed the generals had pushed their luck too far. That became clear when on Dec. 19, 2018, Trump tweeted out a video claiming victory over ISIS and announcing the unilateral withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria, another campaign promise he was itching to fulfill.

That move set off a firestorm in Congress and in the media, and led to Mattis’ resignation the following day. Mattis thought Trump had contemptuously abandoned America’s allies, and he said so with diplomatic understatement in his resignation letter. And yet for all the drama, Trump’s demands would again be stifled.

Bolton credits Trump’s visit to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Dec. 26, 2018, his first overseas trip to a combat zone, as the single most important moment in preserving the U.S. presence in Syria. Generals there told Trump that the ISIS caliphate could be finished off in two to four weeks, and — at Bolton’s urging — stressed the importance of retaining an outpost in southern Syria to deter Iran.

It took far longer — until late March 2019 — to destroy the caliphate. By that time, Pentagon leaders had convinced Trump that the U.S. would need to contribute troops to an internationally monitored buffer zone in northern Syria to prevent Turkey from launching an offensive against Kurdish fighters who had assisted in the war against ISIS. The drawdown was delayed.

Trump would grow more and more frustrated. He had become convinced that the Pentagon was working against him, boxing him into staying in countries that he broadly viewed as terrorist-filled gas stations in a desert.

He would rant about “deep state” subversion, but those talking him out of his instincts were mostly people that he himself had appointed.

Seven months later, Trump again ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from northern Syria, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan notified him that he would be launching a military offensive against the Kurds.

Again, the move set off a public frenzy, and again, Trump was ultimately convinced to leave behind a residual force — this time in eastern Syria, ostensibly to protect Kurdish-controlled oil fields from ISIS. 

Hawks like Graham cynically used this argument — “stay there to protect the oil” — to convince Trump to keep forces in Syria. They were playing to Trump’s long-held view that the U.S. should have taken the oil from Iraq after the 2003 invasion to subsidize the war effort. That would have breached international law. 

But they knew that transactional arguments were more likely to resonate with Trump than human rights arguments about the plight of the Kurds or the fate of Afghan women. So they talked about the oil.

As passionately as Trump apparently felt about pulling America out of the Middle East and Afghanistan, he avoided giving an order to force the military’s hand.

Row of military stars to separate the story into pieces

When it came down to it, Trump was indecisive. In the view of top officials, he did not seem to want to own the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal.

This allowed the Pentagon to dismiss his tweets and rants and maintain the status quo. 

The good news is that it is clear an armed US population clearly has absolutely nothing to fear from the US military being turned against them. These perfumed pansies aren’t warriors. No wonder they’re perfectly happy filling the ranks with dancing boys, self-gelded eunuchs, and tattooed lesbians.