When the White House issued a statement Monday evening threatening to exact "a heavy price" in response to a potential chemical attack by the Syrian government, senior national security officials were caught off guard, NBC News reported.
White House officials say there were consultations, but key officials who help make Middle East policy at the Pentagon and the State Department had no idea the statement was coming, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. Many of them knew about the intelligence suggesting possible preparations for a chemical attack, but they weren't aware the White House was going to issue a public threat of military action — a major step.
The disconnect underscores the extent to which President Trump is making foreign policy on the fly, with little regard for the opinions of the diplomatic and military establishments, and with a freewheeling style that couldn't be more different from the lawyerly approach of the Obama team, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.
Under Obama, coordination was mandatory, so much so that senior officials, including former CIA and Defense chief Leon Panetta, complained about micromanagement. With Trump, it's not clear who is weighing in on major decisions, and how.