Conservative hawks were aghast at Trump’s sudden announcement that he’s ordering American troops out of Syria. Libertarians and others weary of America’s endless militarism, on the other hand, were gladdened, and some even cheered. While some Republicans feel betrayed here, it’s not as if Trump has been silent on this (or any) topic. His December 20, 2018 tweet echoes a long-running monologue about the injustice of Pax Americana.

Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight…..

While this does echo past sentiments about allies picking up their share of military efforts, the pitfall here, as with all things Trump, is to put more stock in a particular utterance than it deserves.

The great baseball man Bob Uecker, a below-average hitter, respectable catcher, and brilliant broadcaster, once explained:

The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.

Therein lies a lesson in figuring Trump out. Relying on the words that perpetually fly out of his mouth to glean his intent is a fool’s errand, not to mention a target-rich environment for those who tend to confirmation bias. Trump, only a few days ago, publicly announced that he’d shut the government down if he didn’t get $5B for his wall from Congress. That defiance didn’t last long enough for the ink to dry, with the White House announcing that it would find money for the wall from other sources. Looking at his history, we can find countless similar examples.

This isn’t to say that nothing gets done. Trump’s been a pretty active President, and policies do get enacted, both legislatively and via the executive branch. But, guessing what he really intends and where his real focus lies goes beyond “a challenge” into “a fool’s errand” territory. Anyone motivated enough can find a Trump quote to support just about any policy alternative that’s out there.

In other words, there is a Trump quote for every occasion.

I’ve stopped putting stock in what Trump says, and instead wait to see what he actually does. Like catching a knuckleball, waiting until the dust settles is far easier and much less taxing. Yes, Trump has announced a withdrawal of troops from Syria, and yes, he’s made statements in the past that telegraphed his intent on this. But, until they’re out, I’ll reserve judgment and hold back on giving him credit. If it happens, I’ll tip my hat. If it doesn’t, I won’t be shocked.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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