At this point, there is a fairly well-established pattern to the messaging arm of the Trump White House foreign policy. First, the president tweets his intention to reverse an established policy position and signals that his new approach will be implemented rashly and with blatant disregard for the wisdom of veterans and experts. Predictably, this sets off outraged reactions that tell you very little about the underlying wisdom of the position being upended or its alternatives. In an impressively efficient and depressingly predictable routine, Trump’s 280 characters convince his critics that he’s a reckless madman and his supporters that he’s a chaos agent and decision maker; either he’s leading the country over the edge or breaking through procedural paralysis to effect real and needed change.
Meanwhile, the most fundamental nuts and bolts questions—in Syria, for instance, whether a withdrawal of U.S. forces would also mean the end of air support for American allies in the region—never even get asked in the ensuing furor. Then, a week or two later when the initial announcement is all but forgotten, the president denies ever taking the position he had advocated while other administration officials, likewise, pretend that initial tweet had never happened and go about pursuing a more limited and conventional set of goals.