In a recent piece for The Atlantic, Mark Bowden took a closer look at what it’s like for U.S. troops to serve under Donald Trump, interviewing “officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees.” The results were striking.
“In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president,” the article noted.
This, of course, was before the president ignored his national security team, withdrew U.S. forces from northern Syria, and effectively invited Turkey to launch a brutal offensive against our Kurdish allies. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, Trump’s decision isn’t sitting well with many U.S. service members.
U.S. veterans have supported Trump in part because of his often-repeated promises to extricate the U.S. military from a generation at war, numerous polls have found. But the calamity on the ground in Syria has wrought angry reactions from service members like few other recent foreign policy decisions.
Troops have reacted viscerally in interviews and on social media despite Defense Department restrictions on them expressing political opinions.
The Post spoke with many troops who “expressed disgust” with the president’s decision.
“I can’t even look at the atrocities,” one Army officer who served in Syria last year said. “The ISIS mission is going to stop, ISIS is going to have a resurgence, and we’re going to have to go back in five years and do it all again.”
A day earlier, David Ignatius wrote in his latest column about a conversation he’d had with a retired four-star general who described Trump’s retreat from Syria as an “unsound, morally indefensible act” and a “disgrace” to America and the soldiers who serve this country.
Ignatius also spoke to an Army officer who added, in reference to Trump’s decision, “It will go down in infamy…. This will go down as a stain on the American reputation for decades.”
The president seems to assume that he enjoys broad political support within the military, which he perceives as conservative, and there’s probably some truth to that. The Military Times reported a few months ago on a poll of U.S. military veterans and the results showed Trump with a 57% approval rating, while 41% disapprove. This is roughly the inverse of Trump’s support with the overall U.S. population.
But if the president believes those numbers can never and will never change, he may be disappointed.