Trump is not concerned about the situation in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, his sudden initiatives are purely a tactic to distract from his domestic difficulties and setbacks.

In reality, Donald Trump had envisioned completely different holidays: two weeks at his opulent property in Florida, lots of time to play golf and a few receptions for rich donors. However, then the budget crisis kept him in Washington. “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House,” he tweeted in self-pity on Christmas Eve. Next, he gave free rein to his frustration in angry tweets about his favorite enemies. The head of government was in crisis mode – facing an uncertain outcome.

In this sense, it is good news that Trump eased his frustration with a visit to the troops on the day after Christmas, making a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. The appearance in front of 100 American soldiers at Al Asad Air Base and a short refueling stop at Ramstein Air Base in the Pfalz went the way the president likes it: uniformed soldiers posed for selfies, they had red “Make America Great Again” hats signed, and cheered for their commander-in-chief. Proudly, Trump posted a video of his visits on the internet with much pathos and patriotism.

The narcissist in the White House urgently needs pretty pictures in the middle of his term. For the past week, a quarter of American government offices have been closed or their employees forced to work without pay because Trump has brought his conflict with Congress about the budget and the wall with Mexico to a head. However, unlike last year, Congress has stood firm up to now, and after the new year, Democrats will take over the majority in the House. Governing will become considerably more difficult for Trump.

Moreover, extremely jittery swing in the stock markets most recently must alarm the president. The businessman, fixated on big numbers, has made stock prices his most important measure of success, and they are showing a steep downward trend since October, even if the leading index recently made up a portion of the losses. The economic boom from which Trump has long profited is starting to falter, and the tariff war is adding enormous risks for the economy.

Given this situation, Trump, the self-proclaimed nationalist, is seeking his salvation in foreign policy. The abrupt withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. soldiers from Syria, by which the U.S. president is unscrupulously leaving America’s Kurdish allies to their likely terrible fate, is fundamentally popular with his base in war weary Iowa and North Dakota.

Nevertheless, Trump has not only alienated his allies in Europe. He faces reproach on the grounds that he is dabbling irresponsibly in military questions after the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

In contrast, the photos of Trump in a circle of combat troops are meant to set a powerful example. The commander-in-chief and the soldiers – that’s always effective in the U.S. It is futile to look for a foreign policy direction or even a vision in Trump’s speech in Iraq. In contrast, his remarks were reminiscent of his campaign appearances during the congressional midterm elections. Even in Iraq, a country torn by civil war, Trump could not refrain from defaming opposition leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Party friends, depicting them as unpatriotic knaves. “The Democrats don’t want to let us have strong borders,” the commander-in-chief claimed. The domestic motivation of this foreign activism couldn’t be revealed any more clearly.

Trump is not concerned about the situation in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, his sudden initiatives are purely a tactic to distract from his domestic difficulties and setbacks. In this production, the citizens of these countries who are plagued by civil war and terror, as well as American soldiers, are reduced to accessories. “It's a disgrace ... but other than that, I wish everybody a Merry Christmas,” Trump said in a televised message on Christmas Eve. Quite differently from what he meant, Trump hit the nail on the head.