168 Hours of Syria Policy in the Trump Administration


Let’s roll the tape on the past few days:

Last Friday: Sean Spicer confirms remarks by Secretary of State Tillerson that Trump is OK with leaving Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. “There is a political reality that we have to accept,” he says.

Tuesday: Trump learns the downside of haphazard policy changes driven mostly by a desire to be different from Obama. Assad, feeling more secure after learning the United States accepts his leadership of Syria, launches a chemical attack on rebels in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Wednesday: Trump, apparently shocked to find out that Assad is a butcher, says Assad has “crossed many, many lines.”

Today: Trump tells reporters about Assad, “I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.” Tillerson translates this into English: “It would seem there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”

Later today: We learn that the Pentagon is preparing recommendations for military action in Syria.

A few minutes after that: Regime change is once again official policy. “Those steps are underway” for the US to lead an international effort to remove Assad.

So in the space of a week, we’ve gone from Assad can stay to Assad must go to let’s bomb Syria. This is quite the crack foreign policy team we have in Washington these days.

I can hardly wait for Trump to launch a bombing campaign for a few days—something that’s a routine favorite of US presidents—and then declare it a massive, game-changing retaliation, “something that’s never been done before.” But at least that would be better than something that really was a game changer. Just remember: whatever John McCain recommends, do the opposite.