Trump's Middle East policy looks a lot like Obama's — that’s not a good thing

One would think that President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE and his current White House denizens might pay at least a little attention to the mistakes of their predecessors and try really hard not to replicate them in any appreciable way.

One might also think that a presidency under pressure would make every attempt to avoid losing what support it does have by consulting with members of its own party before taking precipitous action based on “gut instinct.”

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But think that and you, like the rest of us would be wrong. The president has declared that ISIS is defeated and he is bringing the troops home from Syria, in what seems like a ploy to draw attention away from indictments, investigations and a stock market with more dips than an amusement park roller coaster,

History is replete with instances of premature claims of victory, boastful self-congratulatory credit for the defeat of enemies and egregious errors leading to seismic shifts in regional balances of power. The pictures flash through our minds; mission accomplished on a carrier deck and the naïve presumption that ISIS is like your high school’s junior-varsity team. Obama’s desire to get the Iran agreement at all costs actually cost plenty; the United States ceded Middle East leadership to Iran and Russia. 

But what is particularly puzzling is the lengths to which the Trump administration went to leave the Iran agreement, only to hand Tehran this giant-sized victory in Syria.

Excoriating one’s predecessors and then going out and doing the exact same thing with the exact same words defies logic and worse, cements a terrible reputation of the United States as an unreliable ally, a very bad friend and a country with the attention span of a gnat. In these troubled times the only countries who can count on this administration to consistently buy into their view of the new world order are the ones no serious person would ever call our friends. America has friends and foes — and confusing them, as Obama often did, is dangerous for our national security and for all Americans.

The White House needs to think hard about acting on a “gut instinct” that leaves U.S. allies the world over aghast and left pondering why the United States pushed so hard for them to sign up for a middle east coalition the administration had no intention of seeing through. This is not just the idle chatter of allies for whom the president routinely doles out hectoring and insults. These are countries and people on the front lines in the Middle East, fighting against a rising tide of those committed to upend them and “drive them into the sea.”

We have gained a justified reputation of using people and abandoning them when no longer convenient. But this is no business deal where partners fall out. These are real lives and the survival of people like the Kurds, an historic ally we have abandoned at almost every turn. And yes, the White House can say all it wants about Israel’s security, but the President’s gut decision has Iran, Syria and Hezbollah drooling over the prospect of encircling Israel, which they now believe will be left to its own devices.

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But if you really want hard evidence that this decision was completely wrong, look no further than the only leaders publicly applauding Trump: the unholy triumvirate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Perhaps there were actual consultations before this decision to withdraw was made, but instead of consultations with Congress, it seems as if deals were cut with Moscow and Ankara. If anyone in the White House thought this move would draw attention away from the swirling controversies, think again. They are all still there for everyone to see and instead of earning plaudits for “bringing the troops home,” this will be yet another tragic error added to an already long foreign policy list.

Debra Cagan worked as a career State Department diplomat and Defense Department official from the Reagan to Trump administrations, including serving as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Coalition, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief; senior director of European, Russian and Eurasian security issues; special adviser for Strategic and Nuclear Policy for Europe; senior adviser to U.S. and NATO military officials. Cagan also led negotiations for a highly enriched uranium agreement with Russia and headed coalition affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan.