After the better part of a decade fighting alongside American troops to defend their homeland from the encroachment of an army who seeks to deny them their hard earned autonomy, Kurdish forces were abandoned this week and left to die.
Carrying echoes of America’s abrupt withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1970s, the vacuum is quickly leading to regional collapse as our allies are no longer able to hold the land, and hostile forces move in seeking retribution where they can. This has had the effect of destabilizing all of Syria and allowing enemy forces to massacre our friends, the same ones who only weeks before fought alongside us and had our backs.
Trump has suggested that the conflict in Syria is not America’s, contrasting with how he tried to make his chops by claiming how “tough” he would be on ISIS. He now seems to be walking that back, suggesting that Syria is a Vietnam-like black hole, a source of a “forever war.”
Based on statements from Esper, and now allegations from fellow Republican Mitt Romney, there are suggestions that this move had a much more sinister source than an interest in trying to keep us out of long-term embroilments.
Rather than make the decision to withdraw on the basis of American foreign policy interests, including the sometimes valid claim that America can be overreactive and make unbounded commitments in conflict zones, there are looming suggestions that instead, the withdrawal was an act of acquiescence to Turkey – unprecedented American weakness.
Unlike the timeline presented frequently on American television, the incursion by Turkey was planned prior to the announced withdrawal, and was made known to the US. There were rumblings that the Kurds were considering making a deal with the Iranian-backed and Russian-backed Syrian forces to defend their borders, enemy states of the US, in order to prevent a Turkish genocide. Instead of rallying the troops and demanding our junior partner in NATO to stand down, Trump apparently decided to buck and run.
Administration official Esper has confirmed that, contrary to the idea that the withdrawal was in order to preserve US interests, it was instead an act of retreat. The US, rather than challenging our abusive NATO ally in its brazen attempt to invade Kurdish Syria, simply chose to get out of the way.
With Trump’s style of ultra-personalized foreign relations, often putting self-interest and quality of the personal relationship between the leaders over American national interests, this seems in line with Trump’s normal conduct in foreign policy. A good personal relationship with Erdogan would be enough for Trump to allow the American military to back down and betray its allies in an act of shameful cowardice in the fact of our supposed ally. This is in the midst of that authoritarian leader continuously demanding the extradition of alleged conspirator Gullen from American soil, without providing evidence, an entreaty now known too to have been pushed by Flynn and Guiliani, the former convicted of illegally acting as a foreign agent while still praised by Trump as being a “good guy.”
The evidence is clear: Donald Trump is a sycophant to foreign tyrants who walk all over him and insult the American promise that we make with his submission to foreign powers. This has been seen with his allowance of North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of destroying America, all while declaring his love for and exchanging fruity love letters with Kim Jong Un. It has been seen with his claims that he is “tough” on China, while repeatedly praising Xi Jinping as a “great” leader, and granting repeated exemptions to Huawei, as well as continuously postponing the most damaging of the sanctions, so as to protect Chinese cell phone manufacturers so they can keep peddling their spyware to Americans. It has been seen when he let Iran bomb ships in the Persian Gulf, as always, issuing strong words that he never intended to follow through on, and then cowering in the face of real action. As in the business world, he thinks he can bluff the world that he is not an impotent man. In reality, he has deeply damaged our credibility, and allowed dictators to treat the United States like a ragdoll taking advantage of our weakness at every turn.
If the motive for this was truly because of his personal relationship with Erdogan, and his fear of challenging a “friend” instead of standing up for American values, then the damage that this will do to our international standing is perhaps irrevocable.
Of course, no one should be in support of the aptly named, “forever wars,” intractable insoluble conflicts, unwinnable stalemates that drain our power and take away resources from home, where they are needed. Still, American power still has a strong purpose in the world. The Europeans will simply issue cheap talk, but when the United States, the defacto world hegemon and sole defender of democracy and human rights in a very dark world, has the opportunity to preserve a little light, and yet capitulates to our worst intuitions: selfishness, cowardice, apathy, part of the goodness in the world truly dies.
Staff writer: Ari B