Reports that President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing American forces from Syria has made many in the media outright advocate for a semi-permanent presence in the region because of their paranoia about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that “President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria but has not set a date for them to do so, according to a senior administration official.”
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Normally, such an announcement would bring bipartisan joy to America’s professional commentariat. After all, a 2017 poll found that only one-in-five Americans support greater American involvement in the region. Of course, nothing is normal under Trump.
Despite your feelings on former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, the media’s reflexive opposition to every military decision the former president made was one of the most blatant episodes of media bias in recent history. Under the Obama years, the press stuck by their buddy in the White House and was hesitant to scrutinize America’s lack of action after the former president’s infamous “red line” speech.
Now, with a Republican back in office, many in the media are dedicated to opposing any and all of his decisions — no matter how hypocritical they appear.
Washington Post columnist and CNN commentator Catherine Rampell said that “Putin must be ecstatic” with Trump’s instructions to begin planning for withdrawal from the region. Forget the fact that it’d be odd for a president to base all of his foreign policy decisions on what would bother Russia — why isn’t Rampell focussing on how delightful it must be for American soldiers to finally reunite with their family, or how the resources this country has spent overseas can now be used domestically?
Trump instructs military to begin planning for withdrawal from Syria. Putin must be ecstatic https://t.co/sSfX8GnN6u
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) April 4, 2018
Atlantic writer and MSNBC talking head Natasha Bertrand called Trump’s decision “a big win for Russia.” Again, Bertrand furthers the message that U.S. policy should be based on competing with Russia. She never articulates what our precise strategy is for the region, but instead seems to endorse a game-like foreign policy where America tries winning more points and “beats” Russia.
A big win for Russia. https://t.co/gZHWtivoN1
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) April 4, 2018
Hillary Clinton adviser Philippe Reines tagged along and claimed Trump’s decision was informed by the fact that “Putin wants Syria to himself.” Reines, like his fellow new interventionists, never gives a recommendation on what exactly the United States should do aside from vaguely stressing the importance of American presence in the country. Instead, any hesitation in spilling more American blood in a war that most people can’t name what side we’re on must be because Trump is compromised by a foreign agent.
Putin wants Syria to himself.
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) April 4, 2018
Nevermind that way back in 2005, when Reines was Clinton’s spokesman, he called for “a smaller American ‘footprint’ in Iraq and the region.” Remember, Bush wanted a bigger presence in the Middle East, so it was important to oppose that policy. Now, Trump’s policy mirrors then-Sen. Clinton’s, so it’s time to flip-flop.
There’s little doubt that all of these proudly liberal commentators were critical of the Iraq War early on. To the left, that war was one built on lies with little strategic interest for the U.S. When Obama significantly decreased America’s troop presence in Iraq, where were all the hysterical fears from the left of Putin’s ambition to restore the Soviet Union? Nowadays, all it takes to justify hawkishness isn’t a concern about terrorism or our oil reserves — but a visceral hatred of the sitting president.
Some liberals, like Task and Purpose columnist Paul Szoldra have no problem pointing out how “strange” it is to see these reactions. There are a variety of valid criticisms one can lob at Trump over this decision, but they’d be a lot more effective if they didn’t seem so nakedly partisan.