The current occupant of the White House is known for many things, but mastery of the written word isn't one of them. Donald Trump has shown with his tweets that misspellings, grammatical errors and questionable language are common themes of his writing. So he probably shouldn't be composing communications for sensitive diplomatic matters.
His move to pull soldiers from northern Syria has been met with widespread, and bipartisan, criticism. Turkey has moved into the area, ISIS prisoners have escaped Kurdish camps, and our previous allies the Kurds are, or were, under attack. It's a dicey situation created by a sudden decision.
As President Trump tries to work out a long-term deal with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop our former allies from being butchered, he sent a short letter that, unfortunately, has his fingerprints all over it.
At the start, Mr. Trump reminds Turkey's president of his "destroying the Turkish economy" over the imprisoning of American pastor Andrew Brunson. In the second paragraph, our president claims to have worked hard to solve some of Turkey's problems. And in his final words, the president wrote, "Don't be a fool!" His letters apparently have no filter, or consistency, either.
This isn't a text message to a friend discussing the latest Hogs game. This is supposed to be a serious diplomatic message.
Perhaps the president would benefit from a history lesson. If one wants to talk and look tough, the president to emulate is Theodore Roosevelt. He rode a moose across a lake, maintained a powerful naval force ensuring American priorities were kept across the Western Hemisphere, and even led a group called the Rough Riders. His advice was to speak softly and carry a big stick.
That's good advice for a United States president, even if TR didn't always follow it himself.
Bottom line: Being tough in international affairs is more easily accomplished with a tad more subtlety. President Erdogan reportedly tossed Mr. Trump's letter in the trash upon receiving it. It probably didn't take long to read since it was so short.
It's unlikely Mr. Erdogan would have done the same with a letter from Theodore Roosevelt. Maybe from now on, the State Department should compose diplomatic letters. Let them pick the words and messages. The president can still sign them.
Editorial on 10/19/2019
Print Headline: No more letters, please