Where Are We Exactly?

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December 19, 2018 10:31 a.m.

This is down deep in the NYT story just out on the open and public battle between the White House and the Pentagon over whether to withdraw immediately all U.S. troops from Syria:

But one Defense Department official suggested that Mr. Trump also wants to divert attention away from the series of legal challenges confronting him over the recent days: the Russian investigation run by the special counsel as well as the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a hush-money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

That’s an extraordinary allegation by a Pentagon official. Or more precisely an extraordinary ‘suggestion.’ In the narrowest sense, it’s a gloves-off fight over whether an abrupt withdrawal undermines or enhances U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East.

But in the broader sense, it’s an alarming level of irony that as the special counsel’s Russia probe closes in on President Trump, he would hastily order a withdrawal that the Pentagon argues would “cede foreign influence in Syria to Russia and Iran at a time when American policy calls for challenging both countries,” as the Times puts it.

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