At a photo op with the Italian President on Wednesday, President Donald Trump was asked about his decision to remove American troops from northern Syria. Here’s how he responded:
“It’s been going on for a long time. Syria may have some help with Russia. And that’s fine. It’s a lot of sand. There’s a lot of sand over there. So, there’s a lot of sand that they can play with.”
Yes, really. The President of the United States, with a foreign leader sitting next to him, said the following about an ongoing onslaught by the Turks against Kurds in northern Syria: “There’s a lot of sand over there. … There’s a lot of sand that they can play with.”
Just sit with that for a minute.
OK, now. There have been some attempts within the Republican Party — even among those critical of the move — to try to fit Trump’s decision to remove US forces from northern Syria as part of some sort of broader strategic goal. Comments like Trump’s “sand” one seem to prove that those justifications are just that: justifications.
Trump simply does not know what he is doing in this case. He wanted troops out of an area where he didn’t see a) why we were really there and b) what purpose it served American interests, so he decided to pull them out. That’s it. As almost always with Trump, the most obvious explanation is the right one. He didn’t foresee the almost-immediate Turkish invasion — and attacks on the Kurds in the region — because, well, he just decided to do something and did it. That the Syrian Kurds are American allies wasn’t really a factor either.
Attempts to explain away Trump’s impolitic and ill-informed comments have become de rigeur among Republicans in Washington. But when we try to fit stuff Trump says into some sort of broader historical or political context and framework, we overlook the truth that is staring us in the face: He often has no idea what he is talking about.
The Point: Embrace Trump’s know-nothingness if you will. But there are real consequences that won’t just impact Democrats (or Republicans) in what this President says and does vis a vis the rest of the world.