President Trump’s announced plan to withdraw U.S troops from Syria is bound to put the President on a collision course with neoconservative hawks who have been encroaching on his inner circle and calling for an interventionist policy in Syria.
The Trump Paradox
With neocon hawks like Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and the specter of Bolton in the White House, many in policy circles expected the rebirth of an interventionist foreign policy, but Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S troops from Syria followed by his order to freeze the $200 million Syria recovery funds took policy hawks by surprise.
So what did factor in Trump’s calculation to disengage from Syria? Trump’s core supporters have increasingly come to see his administration adopt an interventionist approach to foreign policy that could put the lives of U.S military personnel in danger, especially in conflict zones like Syria. They also see his foreign policy rhetoric run counter to his campaign promise of staying away from nation building and costly conflicts.
With November elections looming large for Republicans and the President’s approval ratings on a slippery slope, sticking to one of his key campaign promises could become a strategic imperative that he can no longer ignore. Trump’s plan to distance America from costly Middle East conflicts would be met almost certainly with resistance from Bolton and Pompeo. Would Bolton–a known fanatic advocate of military confrontations with America’s adversaries—derail Trump’s plan to pull out of Syria and even sabotage the upcoming Trump-Kim summit? Would neoconservative think tanks with access to the White House be able to convince Trump to change course and deepen America’s involvement in Syria and subsequently put the U.S on a collision course with Russia and Iran?
Disengagement from Syria could be one of Trump’s last remaining chances to stave off disastrous results at the polls in November.