Oh. Well then, no problem. Let the massacre proceed.
This morning, Turkey, a NATO member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. There are no American soldiers in the area. From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars—especially those that don’t benefit the United States. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment. In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.
The problem with expecting Trump to hold Turkey to account if it fails to honor its commitment is that that would potentially require him to do something he’s incapable of doing, which is admitting a mistake. Just try to imagine him conceding that his decision led to a parade of horribles in northern Syria, as umpteen thousand critics have spent the past few days insisting will happen. Turkey’s invasion of Syria was the subject of his instantly famous tweet of a few days ago touting his “great and unmatched wisdom” in agreeing not to interfere with Erdogan’s incursion. He’d much sooner repeat Turkish propaganda that they’ve behaved responsibly towards the Kurds, that they’ve secured all ISIS prisoners, etc, than admit he got rolled.
It says a lot about how badly things are likely to go that there are virtually no members of his otherwise highly loyal party in Congress who are willing to defend his decision. The most prominent example is Rand Paul, but it turns out Rand Paul is a total fraud on this issue:
Kentucky senator Rand Paul, perhaps the most prominent non-interventionist in Congress, said in 2015 that the United States should defeat ISIS by arming the Kurds and promising the Kurds their own country: “I think they would fight like hell if we promised them a country.”
The Kurds did indeed fight like hell, dying by the thousands in the fight against ISIS.
Now, Senator Paul is cheering on President Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds…
An isolationist as devout as Paul can’t resist applauding a U.S. troop withdrawal even when it squarely contradicts his own commitment to the Kurds from 2015 and even though we’re not actually withdrawing. Justin Amash, another libertarian in Congress, has been eager to stress that this week. It’s not just that Trump is betraying an ally here, Amash points out, it’s that he’s not actually keeping his promise to bring the troops home. U.S. soldiers in northern Syria are being moved out of harm’s way while the Turkish massacre plays out, they’re not exiting the country. Trump’s talking points to the contrary are just his way of trying to spin an unpopular decision as the fulfillment of a campaign promise that’ll save American lives.
Question: If, hypothetically, Trump knew the full extent of Turkey’s plans in northern Syria, can it really be said that he didn’t “endorse” the operation by moving U.S. troops from the area? Because CNN claims that he did know.
CNN Exclusive: Turkey says Trump knew ‘precisely’ about scope of N. Syria operation. “President Trump and President Erdogan have reached an understanding over precisely what this operation is,” Gulnur Aybet, Senior Adviser to the President of Turkey told @camanpour
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 9, 2019
Members of his own administration are whispering to the media today about how operations against ISIS are already being affected:
Turkey’s incursion into Syria has already had a “detrimental effect” on US-led counter ISIS operations, a senior US defense official told CNN.
According to the source, Turkey is targeting the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — a key US ally in the war against ISIS. Just hours after Turkey launched its offensive, the SDF said that they had suspended their anti-ISIS operations in order to deal with the attack.
The Turkish operation “has challenged our ability to build local security forces, conduct stabilization operations and the Syrian Democratic Forces [ability] to guard over 11,000 dangerous ISIS fighters. We are just watching the second largest army in NATO attack one of our best counter-terrorism partners,” the source said.
The biggest strategic worry for the United States is that ISIS prisoners will stage a mass jailbreak as their Kurdish minders are drawn away to battle the Turks. In fact, there are reports today already of the Kurds leaving the camps. What about inserting U.S. troops to guard them instead? Nope, says the Pentagon. We don’t have the manpower. It’ll be Turkey’s responsibility. But why would Turkey do the Kurds a favor by bottling up ISIS for them? Better to reach an arrangement with the jihadis in which they’re freed in return for their promise to stay out of Turkey and focus their attacks on Kurdistan. That’ll keep the Turks’ enemy busy for awhile.
Besides, not really our problem, I guess:
Trump indicates he’s not worried about ISIS fighters escaping northern Syria because if they do they’ll just end up in Europe pic.twitter.com/cBsbXQxjsg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 9, 2019
If we’re going to stand aside while Turkey puts the Kurds through a meat grinder, we could conceivably try to mitigate the damage by liberalizing U.S. refugee policy towards them. Anyone think that’s in the offing, though, after the administration announced a modern record-low cap of 18,000 refugees globally for the coming year?
2. Now, with this irresponsible, impulsive and careless planned policy change, he puts at risk tens of thousands of Christians and hundreds of thousands of other human beings. He won't let them come to the U.S. He won't protect them there. https://t.co/wt87VSBmgE
— Michael Wear (@MichaelRWear) October 9, 2019
Have any Republicans in Congress raised the refugee issue with him, whether publicly or privately? It’s often said in defense of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters that we owe them admission to this country after they risked so much to help U.S. troops. Kurdish troops risked their lives to squash a global terrorist menace that threatens the United States, sparing American troops from having to do it, and now we’ve betrayed them to their chief enemy. Anyone want to revisit those caps?
I wonder if Trump realizes how much he’s pressing his luck with some of his core fans here. I don’t fault him at this point for believing that his ardent defenders will tolerate any garbage decision he makes without wavering in their support, but some evangelicals have sounded conspicuously unhappy lately. The latest is Franklin Graham.
TODAY I ask that you join me in praying for the lives affected by the White House decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria. Both Democrat & Republican leaders are deeply concerned bc this would be, in essence, abandoning our closest allies there—the Kurdish people. 1/2
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) October 9, 2019
The Kurds are the ones who have been leading the fight against ISIS in Syria. Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that Pres. @realDonaldTrump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance. 2/2
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) October 9, 2019
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Tulsi Gabbard laying into Trump for his decision. Which seems surprising at first blush — normally Gabbard is quick to echo Trump’s call for withdrawing American troops from pointless Middle Eastern wars. Don’t forget that Gabbard is also an Assad ally, though, and a large Turkish presence in Syria complicates life for her friend Bashar.
@realdonaldtrump isn't removing our troops from Syria. He's just moving them from the northern Syrian border, allowing Turkey to invade Syria & slaughter the Kurds. Trump lied to the Kurds, promising them our support while simultaneously preventing them … (1/5) pic.twitter.com/FydpfhMNVf
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 9, 2019