News Tip: In Syria, Trump ‘Alone Bears The Political Price For Any Adverse Developments,’ Expert Says

Turkey’s military has entered Northern Syria following President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from the area

Turkey’s military has entered Northern Syria following President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from the area.

  • Quotes:
    “The president, as commander-in-chief, is empowered to make decisions like this, even if it turns out to be a strategic disaster,” says Peter Feaver, a former White House national security adviser to President George W. Bush and now a professor of political science at Duke University. “In our democratic system of governance, civilian control of the military means that civilians have the right to be wrong. Then the electorate should hold such civilian political leaders accountable at the ballot box.”  

    “However, when the president makes a decision in this fashion, abruptly flip-flopping from a settled interagency process, ignoring the earnest advice of virtually all of his own national security advisers and breaking with all of his political supporters except the most extreme isolationist fringe of the party, then he magnifies the risk to him and to the country.”

    “The risk to him personally is that he alone bears the political price for any adverse developments. The risk to the country is that the haphazard way he has made policy, breaking with all the work his own administration has done in the past several years, will make it harder to get any other country to go out on a limb to back the United States in future ventures.”

    “It is a myth that most international actors only do what is in their narrowest, most parochial, most short-term calculation of material interest in the moment, ignoring what happened before and what is coming down the pike. In the real world, most political actors try to balance short- and long-term interests, and see value in, for instance, helping the United States today in the hopes of being helped by the United States tomorrow. That depends on trusting the United States to do likewise.”

    “President Trump’s actions have undermined that trust and made it that much harder to build effective coalitions the next time.”

  • Peter Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University. He also directs the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and is director of the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. From 2005 to 2007, he served as a special adviser for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform on the National Security Council Staff at the White House.
  • For additional comment, contact Peter Feaver at

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