In the face of widespread condemnations and evidence of horrific failure, Donald Trump has tried to defend his new policy in Syria by stressing a specific principle: the president is desperate to bring U.S. troops home. "The same people who got us into the Middle East mess are the people who most want to stay there!" the Republican wrote on Twitter this morning.
It was against this backdrop, however, that the Trump administration announced on Friday afternoon that it's sending 2,800 more American troops to Saudi Arabia.
During a brief Q&A with reporters, the president faced the obvious question: "Mr. President, why are you sending more troops to Saudi Arabia when you just said it's a mistake to be in the Middle East?" After acknowledging that he is, in fact, deploying more American troops to Saudi Arabia, Trump explained his thinking on the matter:
"The relationship has been very good. And they buy hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of merchandise from us, not only military equipment. In military equipment, about $110 billion. It's millions of jobs."Now, with that being said, we are sending troops and other things to the Middle East to help Saudi Arabia. But are you ready? Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything we're doing. That's a first. But Saudi Arabia -- and other countries, too, now -- but Saudi Arabia has agreed to pay us for everything we're doing to help them. And we appreciate that."
But in this case, that's not the most interesting part. Did the president mean to say that we're sending thousands of troops to the Middle East because Saudi Arabia "has agreed to pay us"?
The Republican made similar comments last month, bragging about the Saudis willingness to "pay cash." Trump further suggested that he sees a direct connection between the United States’ willingness to use military force in the Middle East and the money foreign countries are prepared to give us.
As we discussed at the time, from the American president's perspective, our military isn't for sale, but it may be for rent.
If the Kurds had more money, perhaps Trump wouldn't have abandoned them?