The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Pump the Brakes

As Donald Trump announces a withdrawal from Syria, the usual suspects begin to gin up the usual rhetoric. In this case, the situation is complex and any decision vis a vis withdrawal is not easy. Here are some of the issues as I see them:
  • The United States cannot and should not police a collection of failed Muslim countries in the Middle East, trying to moderate long-standing tribal hatreds between rival Islamic factions that have gone on for centuries. Our Military should not be a police force nor should it stay in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria indefinitely. The conflicts in those countries are never-ending and our chances of success, much less nation building, approach zero.
  • The United States should not abandon allies in the Middle East who have fought as our proxy and helped to defeat Islamic terror groups, including ISIS. The Kurds have been a staunch ally who we have abandoned in the past.
  • The United States should never allow an Islamist, autocratic thug, like Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to attack our allies with impunity.
  • Threats of economic sanctions will do little to dissuade the Turkish military once it has established presence in northern Syria. Threats will also do little to stop a country that threatened the Kurds with annihilation.
Give these issues, my take is that Donald Trump is wrong in abandoning the Kurds and giving Erdoğan free rein in Northern Syria. There is no guarantee that ISIS will continue to be contained if the Kurds are decimated nor is there any guarantee that unintended consequence—all of them bad—will not result from this move.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
President Trump’s defeat of Islamic State as a territorial power was a major foreign-policy success, yet he may now undo it with a retreat from Syria that will also signal to U.S. allies that the White House can’t be trusted.

That’s the risk of Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision late Sunday to abandon northern Syria to Turkey. Washington and Ankara had been negotiating to create a buffer zone to avoid a conflict there, but on Sunday the White House announced that American forces will cede the area to Turkish troops. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now free to wage war on Syria’s Kurds, who were America’s most important allies against ISIS.
It seems that the entirety of Washington is against Trump's decision. In the past, that should give any president pause, but in recent years, the entirety of Washington has been so wrong about so much that being a contrarian just might have its merits. A counterpoint is offered by Charles Hurt:
Why is it always foreigners who manage to unite all the politicians from both parties in Washington?

Illegal aliens — I mean “Dreamers.” Haitian boat people. Olde Europeans. Sudanese. And now the Kurds. It is never support for regular Americans that brings politicians from both parties together.

Even military veterans seem to offend half the politicians in Washington. Democrats in Congress would give illegal aliens free health care before they would give it to our wounded veterans.

And don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against the Kurds. They seem like great people. Brave, hardworking — a considerable step up from your average American college student today. And they seem to be truly trying to shake off the yoke of tyranny, which at least half of Americans support.

But why do politicians drop everything they should be working on and come together to do something only for the “Dreamers,” who, again, are illegal aliens? Or for the Kurds?
This is a hard one, but on balance, I think we need to pump the brakes. Trump should reconsider his decision.