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Why has Trump followed his impulses to Iraq?

The unannounced visit serves as a welcome distraction

December 26, 2018

6:37 PM

26 December 2018

6:37 PM

Better late than never. On the day that the New York Times unearthed the Queens podiatrist who, in exchange for favors from Fred Trump, had diagnosed young Donald as suffering from bone spurs in 1968 that precluded military service in Vietnam, he finally visited a war zone. Trump didn’t seem to be suffering from any overt infirmities as, together with Melania, he mingled with troops in Iraq, where he seems predisposed to maintain a military presence. Keeping armed forces in Iraq will allow him to up the pressure on Iran if he chooses and to launch commando missions into Syria.

To the probable relief of his aides, his trip also gets him out of the White House, where he was fulminating about the refusal of Democrats to pay for a border wall. It will also give him a talking point for his upcoming State of the Union speech. Plus it helps deflect attention, at least for a day or so, from the gyrations of the stock market and the resignation of defense secretary James N. Mattis. As always, Trump professes to be unruffled by the brouhaha surrounding his edict that the military exit Syria: ‘a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking,’ he said on Wednesday.

Not really. Trump may have been referring to American involvement abroad, but his real glaring weaknesses are at home. The stock market recovered slightly today but Wall Street continues to view his assaults on the Federal Reserve and trade war with China apprehensively. If Trump imposes a 25 percent tariff, he could become a new Herbert Hoover, plunging the world into a new Great Depression.

Nor is this all. His impulsivity has created other problems. As Nancy Pelosi, who ran rings around him during their televised White House meeting, prepares to become House Speaker, Trump has fenced himself in. ‘We have terrorists coming in over the southern border,’ he declared in Iraq, even as his detractors warn that he’s allowing ISIS to regroup. He may have spurred the Pentagon to depart Syria but how does he extricate himself from the government shutdown without looking like he’s gone AWOL to his base?

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