Cleaning Up Trump’s Qatar Mess

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when someone, I’m not sure who, drew the short straw and had to explain to President Trump that Al Udeid Air Base is located in Qatar and houses around 10,000 American soldiers. It must have been a delicate moment when Trump realized that he had just imperiled the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command by making Tweets supportive of the decision of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut diplomatic ties with Doha and close “all land, sea and air borders with Qatar.” He actually took credit for the decision and expressed optimism that it might result eventually in the end of terrorism.

This wasn’t received well by people who have an actual clue. For example:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was left stunned and speechless when told by reporters of Trump’s tweets.

Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Corker responded, in a notably lower register, “The president?”

It wasn’t long before some sources in the White House(!) began speculating that the president simply didn’t know that the U.S. Central Command is located in Qatar. This was a variation on the defense they’re using against James Comey that the president is simply “new at this.”

The problem is that as recently as May 21st, these words came out of the president’s mouth at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh: “Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner.”

I know that it’s a grave sin for a president to rely on a TelePrompter because Donald Trump told me this, so it can’t be that he read those words without understanding them. Except, that’s precisely what happened in this case. Asking President Trump to read and understand words like Qatar and Bahrain is exactly like asking him to read  Suras out of the Koran in their original Arabic. With training, he might be able to pronounce those words (although possibly not), but that doesn’t mean he’ll ever have the slightest idea what they mean.

Ever since Trump decided to trash the generous host of our largest air base in the Middle East, it has been clean-up-in-aisle-four time for the rest of our government. But it’s not really working:

The leader of Qatar reportedly has no plans to accept President Trump’s invitation for a meeting at the White House until the country moves past an effort by several Persian Gulf neighbors to isolate the nation.

A Qatari official told Reuters on Thursday that the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, would not be accepting Trump’s invitation and “has no plans to leave Qatar while the country is under a blockade.”

Therefore, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to march out this afternoon and humiliate the president by taking back our government’s support for Trump’s awesome accomplishment and his plan for ending terrorism.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar, saying it has “humanitarian consequences” and hinders the United States’ military efforts…

…Tillerson said the blockade has caused shortages of food, the separation of families and other “unintended consequences.” He added that it hurts U.S. business activities and the U.S. effort to fight the terror group ISIS.

So, we went from praising the “so good” news that Qatar was being isolated and hoping it might end terrorism forever to arguing that the move hinders the United States’ military efforts against ISIS.

It’s not that Trump is “new to this.” It’s that he needs to be removed from office immediately because he can’t do this.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.