Walter Russell Mead thinks that Trump’s Syria withdrawal is politically dangerous for him:
The surprise is that for the first time, Mr. Trump made a foreign-policy decision that divides the coalition that brought him into the White House and risks his control of the GOP.
It is true that Trump has angered Iran hawks in Washington with the Syria decision, but there is almost no popular constituency for keeping American forces in Syria indefinitely. Other than fighting jihadists, most Republican voters (like most Americans) see no reason to have a military presence in Syria. That’s probably because there is no reason for one. More to the point, I doubt that there are many voters of any kind that are going to break with or rally behind Trump because of one foreign policy decision about an unauthorized war that many Americans probably didn’t even know was still going on.
Mead returns once again to one of his favorite foreign policy labels:
Mr. Trump’s decisions on Syria and Afghanistan risk a rift between the president and his Jacksonian supporters and provide a way for some in the GOP to break with the president without losing their own populist credentials. The betrayal of the Kurds, the benefits to Iran of American withdrawal, the tilt toward an Islamist and anti-Israel Turkey, and the purrs of satisfaction emanating from the Kremlin are all bitter pills for Jacksonians to swallow.
The “Jacksonian” label has never seemed very useful or accurate to me, and this is a good example of why it doesn’t work as a description of the foreign policy views of a broad section of the GOP. Mead lists a number of reasons why he thinks “Jacksonians” will be angry with Trump about Syria withdrawal, but he is really just projecting the complaints that he and other elite hawks have with the decision onto the Republican rank-and-file. Do “Jacksonian” voters know or care much about the YPG in Syria? Anything is possible, but I don’t think there is much support for that claim. Are they actually upset with Trump for leaving them in the lurch? I very much doubt it. The people Mead insists on calling “Jacksonians” are generally hawkish, but it doesn’t follow that they subscribe to all of the assumptions of elite Iran and Russia hawks.