Tom Friedman: "Where Is Trump's Twitter Feed When We Need It?"

|

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman joins ABC's George Staphanopoulos to discuss the latest developments for U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. Friedman said Trump "made clear was that right now this administration is not interested in going any further than the Obama team did in terms of actually changing the balance of power on the ground" in Syria.

"Without that, it's hard to see any long-term change right now," he said. "But it's still early in the process."

He also suggested that Trump should publicly denounce Russia and Syria over their support for Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, saying: "I don't think these guys like to be called protectors of someone using poison gas."

"One thing I'm asking myself today is... where is Trump's Twitter feed when we need it?" Friedman mused.

"If I were Trump right now, I'd be hammering Putin on the fact [that he is] a protector of someone using poison gas," he continued. "I don't think these guys like to be, actually, called protectors of someone using poison gas. So I would be doing everything I could on every front to increase our leverage, because in the Middle East, if you're trying to do diplomacy without leverage, you're playing baseball without a bat."

As of 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, President Trump had not tweeted for more than 19 hours and had not tweeted about Syria since before Thursday's missile strikes.

More from Friedman's interview, via ABC:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Secretary of State Tillerson there, no change in the United States military strategy towards Syria. I guess the big question is, what is the strategy right now?

TOM FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what I heard, George, are basically three messages. One is that the Trump people feel that in launching this cruise missile attack in retaliation for Assad's use of chemical weapons that they have reduced the chances that Assad will use such chemical weapons again or that somebody else will. That's not an unimportant thing.

I think they also feel they have increased the uncertainty in places like North Korea as to whether the U.S. will use force if the North Koreans cross that red line on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But what I think he also made clear was that right now this administration is not interested in going any further than the Obama team did in terms of actually changing the balance of power on the ground between the opposition forces, the pro-American opposition forces there, the Assad regime, and the Russians and the Iranians who are backing them.

And without that, it's hard to see any long-term change right now. But it's still early in the process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and the question is, what kind of leverage you can use with Russia to get them to pull away from Assad. That doesn't appear to be happening right now.

I was struck by something King Abdullah said to Lally Weymouth of The Washington Post this morning. He suggested that the United States should consider concessions on Crimea to cleave Putin away from Assad. Good idea?

FRIEDMAN: I would really think twice about that. You know, I think these two theaters are very different. I mean, it would obviously depend on what Assad was -- what Putin was ready to do in Syria, whether he was really ready to break the alliance with the Iranians, and create a process by which you're easing Assad out of power and really partner with the world community in creating a different kind of political structure in Syria.

If he's ready to go that far, well, you could certainly think about it. But I'd be very careful about that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you make sense of the president's pretty dramatic turnaround this week?

Your colleague in "The New York Times," Peter Baker, talked -- called it a highly improvisational, situational approach toward foreign policy. You know, just last week, we saw Secretary Tillerson talking about the Syrian people making a decision on Assad. We saw President Trump all through the campaign saying we can't get involved in this fight.

Real change this week.

FRIEDMAN: Well, look, George, in fairness, Syria is the problem from hell. And, you know, it's such a fragmented situation on the ground right now, you know, what I saw in Secretary Tillerson there talking about it is, you know, why didn't I raise my hand to be secretary of Agriculture, not secretary of State?

Because, it's really a difficult, difficult situation.

So the real question is, I think, is two things, George.

One is can we increase our leverage there without putting American troops on the ground, by maybe giving more aid to the opposition forces there, considering a no-fly zone?

I mean that's a big NATO-wide question.

You know, one thing I'm asking myself today is where are Trump's -- where is Trump's Twitter feed when we need it?

You know, if I were Trump right now, I'd be hammering Putin on the fact -- and the Iranians. You are a protector of someone using poison gas. Putin, you were either feckless and didn't know your ally was doing this, or you're complicit.

And I don't think these guys like to be, actually, called protectors of someone using poison gas.

So I would be doing everything I could on every front to increase our leverage, because in the Middle East, if you're trying to do diplomacy without leverage, you're playing baseball without a bat.

Comment
Show commentsHide Comments

Latest Political Videos

Video Archives