Republican Hawks Spar With Trump Over an ‘America First’ Grand Strategy in Syria

President Donald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty Images

As geopolitical upheavals continue hemorrhaging Syria, President Donald Trump and hawkish Republicans leaders are sparring over grand strategy in the region.

After Trump announced a military withdrawal from Syria last week, and subsequently froze over $200 million in recovery aide, GOP senators warned against the White House’s latest grand strategy, or lack thereof, for the Middle East.

“This is an opportunity for this president, who is clearly being tested, to stand up and frankly make a name for himself,” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC on Thursday, noting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military attacks in Aleppo.

“It’d be the single worst decision the president could make,” reaffirmed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) in an interview with Fox News Sunday. “I’ve seen this movie before, when Obama did the same thing in Iraq.”

“When it comes to Syria, do not read the Obama playbook, one foot in, one foot out,” continued the senator. “This is a disaster in the making.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Twitter warned that withdrawing from Syria would create a “vacuum” and “undermine [the] security of U.S.”

A troika of hawkish skepticism, McCain, Rubio and Graham frequently challenge Trump’s foreign policy—all rebuked his congratulatory phone call to Putin last month following the Russian president’s reelection.

On the issue of Syria, all senators promote an aggressive U.S. presence, see-sawing between supporting and opposing the White House’s conflicting policies in the region. After fully backing the president’s airstrike on a Syrian airbase last year, McCain and Graham condemned the Trump administration’s end to a CIA training program for rebel forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite the weakening of terrorist networks like ISIS, Syria remains charred by civil war, refugee camps and indirect military conflicts between leading world powers. Having campaigned on an ‘America First’ platform promising to rescind U.S. military forces from the Middle East, the Trump administration has yet to untangle the United States from such an intertwined labyrinth of special interests and corporatized warfare.

Earlier this year, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out a comprehensive grand strategy at the Hoover Institute involving the ousting of al-Assad, indefinite military occupation and rebuilding efforts. But Trump’s statements in Ohio last week contradicted such a massive undertaking and are at odds with military officials advocating for further involvement in the region.

The arrival of John Bolton as national security advisor and Mike Pompeo as secretary of state also raise new questions for the White House’s grand strategy for Syria—namely, how two notoriously hawkish officials will fit within a nationalistic platform being challenged by other notoriously hawkish officials like McCain, Rubio and Graham.

The National Security Council will discuss the U.S.’ involvement in Syria at a meeting scheduled for early this week.

Republican Hawks Spar With Trump Over an ‘America First’ Grand Strategy in Syria