US President Donald J. Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during a family photo session at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)...
Jorge Silva

Will Trump tweet his way into an escalating military conflict in Syria?

Updated

For years, Donald Trump assured the public that he would never telegraph his military plans. Lately, for reasons the White House hasn’t explained, the president has spent a fair amount of time doing the opposite.

Trump declared two weeks ago, for example, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon…. Very soon – very soon we’re coming out.” (The Trump administration said soon after that it disagrees.)

This morning on Twitter, the president signaled the opposite intention.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

About a half-hour after taunting Russia and signaling a missile attack, Trump tried a more conciliatory tone.

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

The idea that the U.S./Russia relationship is worse now than during the Cold War is difficult to take seriously – maybe he’s never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis? – but also note the shift from one tweet to the next. First he said, “Get ready Russia,” which was soon followed by a call for international cooperation.

All of which led Trump to blame the deteriorating conditions on the investigation into the Russia scandal.

“Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!”

Literally all of these claims are wrong. The investigation itself hasn’t undermined foreign relations; the investigation is neither fake nor corrupt; the probe is led by Republicans; Mueller isn’t conflicted; there’s all kinds of evidence of collusion; and if anyone in this drama has gone “crazy,” it’s not federal investigators.

But stepping back, what worries me isn’t that Trump doesn’t understand current events. Rather, what’s alarming is the president’s willingness to make provocative national security moves via social media.

Maybe the president saw something on Fox News he didn’t understand. Maybe new White House National Security Advisor John Bolton is whispering dangerous ideas in his ear. Whatever the cause, these tweets about Russia, Syria, and missile strikes are largely incoherent – and this is too important a subject for the amateur president to be winging it on Twitter.

Donald Trump, Russia and Syria

Will Trump tweet his way into an escalating military conflict in Syria?

Updated