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Ignore President Donald Trump’s fake claim of a “growing security crisis” on our southern border.

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Trudy Rubin | The Philadelphia Inquirer

His fearmongering only distracts Americans from our real security crisis: a chaotic foreign policy increasingly run solo by a president who believes himself too “brilliant” to need advice. A president who makes consequential decisions by tweet without consulting top advisers or allies. A president who believes he is uniquely qualified to make deals with despots but gets played by them every time.

The security threat posed by Trump was vividly on display last week.

Even as Trump was misusing his prime-time address, his national security adviser and secretary of state were traipsing the Mideast in a desperate attempt to calm allies spooked by his sudden tweet that U.S. troops were quitting Syria.

Yet the president’s behavior remains so erratic, the cleanup mission was doomed to fail.

Let’s briefly recap the Syria debacle: Trump’s mid-December tweet came just after a phone call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the Turkish president pledged to take on the remaining fight against ISIS if the U.S. withdrew its 2,000 troops from Syria. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Erdogan had also promised Trump he would “protect” Syrian Kurdish fighters allied with America in smashing ISIS.

Trump apparently bought both of Erdogan’s blatant falsehoods.

“The president hasn’t read his briefing books,” says the Council on Foreign Relations Turkey expert Steven Cook. Erdogan has made clear over and over that his primary enemy in Syria is the Kurds, not ISIS. Indeed, when President Barack Obama asked for Turkish help in pushing back a powerful ISIS attack in 2014 near Turkey’s border, Erdogan made clear he’d rather kill Kurds.

Cook adds, “The idea that Erdogan would fight ISIS is totally ridiculous.” Turkey’s military is not geared for such guerrilla warfare, nor are their Sunni Arab militia allies in northern Syria capable of doing so.

Yet the Turks are asking us to turn over U.S. bases in Syria, and to give the Turkish military weapons and intelligence. Says Cook: “People in the U.S. military are saying, ‘Why are we doing this when the Turkish military will turn around and kill our (Kurdish) allies?’”

The answer: Trump is so clueless about the Mideast that he accepts Erdogan’s pledges. Not surprisingly, Erdogan wants to deal with only a gullible Trump while ignoring the president’s unhappy advisers, who were not consulted before the tweet and oppose a speedy pullout.

The Turkish leader refused to meet with National Security Adviser John Bolton in Ankara last week, after Bolton demanded that Turkey agree to protect our Kurdish allies. (Clearly, Bolton didn’t believe Erdogan’s promise to Trump.)

Bolton and Pompeo are each traversing the region in an effort to reassure Israel and Gulf Arabs that a U.S. pullout won’t encourage an ISIS revival, and embolden Iran to expand its operations in Syria.

But why should our spooked allies believe Bolton or Pompeo, when the president doesn’t listen to them? (Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned after failing to change the president’s mind on the Syria withdrawal.)

And why should any allies trust Washington, when they know Trump may sell them out with a tweet based on ignorance or pique?

The Syria case lays bare the threat posed by a president who thinks he has infallible instincts, and has no clue that he is being played by despots whose instincts, and knowledge, are far better than his.

Just as Trump was easy prey for Erdogan, he has lapped up Vladimir Putin’s falsehoods, and has yet to budge Xi Jinping — or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — on key security and nuclear issues. Obsessed with leader-to-leader negotiations, the president may ultimately make bad deals, or after coming up empty, drift into military conflict.

What makes Trump’s obsession with a border wall even more outrageous is that it distracts attention from all the real threats elsewhere. The White House has yet to cite one case of a known terrorist sneaking in across the southwest border and had to retract false claims by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to the contrary.

Indeed, the primary threat to U.S. security, according to the 2018 assessment by the director of national intelligence, is cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and markets, with Russia and China atop the list of malign actors.

Yet Trump refuses to direct an all-of-government pushback against cyber warfare and has dismantled the office of White House cybersecurity coordinator. He continues to deny the realities of Russian meddling.

And his government shutdown has sidelined nearly half the staff of the Department of Homeland Security’s new cybersecurity agency, which was supposed to guard against network attacks.

Next on the threat list are the rise of smaller nuclear and biological weapons, and the still-real terror threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda. The president hasn’t paid any attention to the former. And, if he follows his instincts, he will promote an ISIS revival in Syria by betraying the only Syrian fighters, the Kurds, who truly took on the jihadis.

To rephrase Pogo, “We have met the security threat, and he is Trump.”

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Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin can be reached at trubin@phillynews.com.

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(13) comments

Redwall

The "mess" was created by Bush and made worse by Obama.

Trump is doing the right thing to bring our men home. Now.

A million souls perished since 9/11 due to Bush and Obama.

Bring them home.

oldhomey

The U.S. in this long, long war has had no more loyal and effective ally in its fights in Iraq and Syria than the Kurds, who have been the actual spear point in every successful military encounter we have had in those theaters. They are people fighting for not just their way of life, but for their lives, period, and Bush II turned his back on them in Iraq after he was done with them. Trump wants to do the same, an open invitation for the much stronger Turkish military to go in a slaughter the Kurds, which they intend to do as soon as our small force of U.S. troops is removed. Your pretend pacifist message does not ring true, Red. I haven't seen a scintilla of compassion in anything you have said, ever.

oldhomey

There is no doubt even among most of Trump's supporters that the man is a complete and foolish ignoramus. But he is not dumb, and that is what makes me queasy about his relationships with Putin, Xi, Kim and Erdogan. I think he was into personal financial arrangements with the Chinese, Russians and Turks before he was president, and he is in bed with them now, perhaps to cover his rear and possibly his arrears that he may owe them. That is why the Mueller investigation cannot be interrupted, and why the House committee should subpoena his tax records and not take "no" for an answer. We live in very perilous times because of this baboon in the White House, and he should be nailed firmly to the wall so that we do not see a return of his ilk into our political life for a long, long time.

martian2

perfectly said homey. Of course Trump is in bed with those you mentioned, that is why he has his kids working for him in the white house, to keep them close and to continue looking after the family businesses.

Rick Czeczok

Wow, quite the conspiracy theorist you have become. So giving Iran billions was a great decision, and giving them a free ten year ride? Or how about letting Russia run into Ukraine? Let's not forget Afghanistan and that mess. Or how about ignoring Korea and letting them build up a nuclear arsenal. Or letting China just about taking over the banking world with them trying to base off of their currency instead of the American dollar. No my friend, Trump inherited these problems, he didn't develop them. So please stop the blame game, remember he wasn't in power, hmmm who was?
Now tell us all about your Vietnam war experiences, you know the ones you made up because you were never in the war you lied about that too. You and your heroes Al Gore and Sen. Blumenthal, you must have all been in the same unit in the war (the non existent one). Now go ahead and give me you blah, blah, blah, BS

martian2

a little fact checking there rick will show the truth. Iran was getting their own money back, nobody gave them money from the tax payers. No one let Russia run into Ukraine, there were sanctions and diplomatic expulsions as a result. Perhaps you wanted another big war, the rest of the country did not. Afghanistan was a result of 9-11 and the ineptness of another republican, Bush II. Korea has been a thorn for fifty years or more for this country and many presidents. Tell me has anything changed? And your China currency statement is too far fetched and incomprehensible to comment on. And so tell me what does Vietnam war have to do with anything? Love your blah blah though, a perfect ending to the BS you spewed.

Rick Czeczok

Can you figure anything out for yourself? I get tired of reading the same things I say, and two weeks later you then try to use the terms. Why not save time and just cut and paste.
As for your political knowledge of foreign affairs, give it up you as you seem to be very confused about facts. Twisting facts to try to prove your point really makes you sound stupid to anyone who really follows it. Blah, blah, blah Kingman oh that's right you go by Martian now that you got kicked off of here for your ridiculous comments and insults. Getting close again I imagine. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

A Veteran

martain better known as KINKY OR KINKYMAM just saying HI!!!!!!!

oldhomey

martian, you have my deepest sympathy. It would be overwhelming to have just one of those two powerful, amazingly informed and stupendously eloquent intellects -- Ricky or A Veteran (of no known military unit) -- attacking you and vaporizing your comments and opinions so thoroughly. But you have them attacking you in tandem! If you survive this, there must be some sort of award for heroism that we will have to bestow upon you. I admire you but am filled with grief, watching you assailed so cruelly while I am helpless in trying to protect you. Go with God.

martian2

yes homey being assailed by the two great minds of our era is truly a heavy burden hoisted upon my shoulders. But take heed, the childish insults thrusted in my direction by ricky and veteran are but a small price to pay. Tedious as they are, those two wannabes mimic the same attitude and intellectual prowess of twin three year olds fighting over which one gets to feed off mama's bosom first. Yes mama didn't wean them till it was too late, and now we see the result. Both of them are a legend in their own mind, as the saying goes. And neither one can find their way because of the darkness that lurks in the what is left of their minds. So treat them gently, have pity, and send them your thoughts and prayers.

oldhomey

Well, Ricky, let me waste some time on a response to your stupidities that you will never answer to, because you have no answers. Number one, what is this "free ten year ride" we gave to Iran? The Iranian budget is something like $350 billion a year. I had not been aware that we have been underwriting them. Could you clarify this for me?

Gosh, I thought it was the Trump administration who gave Russia a free pass in the Ukraine. In fact, weren't the men running the Trump campaign in 2016, particularly Manafort, in the pay of the top pro-Russia Ukrainian politicos?

Shucks, I didn't realize the Koreans built their nuclear capabilities after that sissy Obama became U.S. president. I always thought it started decades before then. In fact, I am pretty sure that is the case, so if you want more information on this, let me know. In addition to that, I think after Trump bloviated that because of his brilliant statesmanship there is no North Korean nuclear threat, he was shown to be entirely wrong. In fact, the North Koreans have been steadily building up their nuclear capability all the while that they have been pretending to talk about disarmament with Trump.

I would not deny that Trump inherited the trade problems we have had for decades now with China. Every president inherits the carry-over problems that accumulate in our ever-changing world. What has been astounding about Trump and China, however, is that he is abandoning all of our decades-old trade partners and agreements, giving the Chinese an open door to walk in and eat our lunch with them. At the same time, he seems to think engaging in a trade war with China in a volatile world economy is a good idea, which clearly is a figment of his own, trashy imagination of being a superb negotiator.

As I said before, Ricky, I don't know who this Blumenthal guy is and why you continually bring his name up. But if you think Al Gore imagined his tour of duty with the Army in Vietnam, you simply underscore once again your bottomless well of ignorance.

How will you respond to this? Not at all, I suspect. But if you do, I am sure it will carry all the weight of your usual insane laughter. Why do you persist in publicly humiliating yourself?

oldhomey

Well, Ricky, many of us have lately been saddened by the disappearance of new2lax on these boards, missing his hilarious spoonerisms and totally inane statements. I guess he finally decided he simply wanted to no longer make a fool out of himself publicly and has withdrawn from commenting here. But I don't despair very much, because recently you have upped your game and appear here constantly, a man equally as hilariously inept with the English language as new2, and just as bereft of knowledge and logic. I will stay off these boards for a week if anybody can step forward and offer a reasonable interpretation of this recent statement from you: " Check the dates when when they started Scooter and Kingman (Martian) then tell me again how it is Trumps fault. "

It is so funny that it nearly distracted me from the realization that you "skated" (whatever that term might mean in your head, though I assume "skirted") every point I made in my 5:27pm post. blah, blah, blah indeed.

oldhomey

My offer still stands to stay off these boards for a week. Apparently, however, even Ricky can't step forward and explain what his head scratching comment in his 7:08pm post might have meant. On top of being silly, inane, uninformed and ignorant, Ricky is now showing himself through his silence to be a coward.

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