That noise you can hear is Donald Trump flip–flopping in the sand. Last week, American troops and dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles moved to occupy oil fields in Syria. The escalation came just half an hour after Trump had tweeted that all US soldiers had left the country and would be coming home. As so often, the President says one thing, then orders the military to do the other. On Twitter, Trump is ending the endless wars. In the real world, he is perpetuating them.
Trump's focus is not really Syria, of course. It is the presidential election next year, and his precious voter base. But he can't seem to decide if his supporters are peaceniks or bloodthirsty chauvinists. His problem is that they are both and neither. He's beginning to learn that the relationship between foreign policy and domestic politics is more complicated than perhaps he realised.
The most important group in Trump's base are white evangelical Christians. In 2016, evangelicals rallied behind Trump in greater numbers — he took a staggering 82 per cent of their votes — than they had for any candidate since Nixon. Securing their loyalty had hardly been a slam dunk. In Trump, the powerful preachers had to overlook pretty much every sin they rail against day in, day out: divorces, cursing, lying, tricking, debt, gambling, porn stars. The alternative, though, was Hillary Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Trump is anti-abortion, and he is pro-family and sceptical of sexual-identity politics. He also shares the evangelicals' love of Israel. The majority of them see Trump as the most pro-Israel president ever, and they were especially elated by the decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Many believe this will to help bring about the so-called rapture, when all Christians will join with God.