We’ve had more than 36 hours to absorb the news that President Trump was pulling our troops out of the way of an anticipated Turkish incursion into northern Syria. (And possibly out of the country entirely.) The response has been rapid and generally brutal across the board. Has any of this sunk in with the President yet, potentially leading him to reconsider this decision? As of last night, it certainly didn’t sound like it. (Associated Press)
“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote, adding that, “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” He said it will now be up to the region to decide what to do with captured IS fighters, and warned of retribution in response to any future attacks.
“We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!” he wrote.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the Syrian border. He views the Kurdish forces as a threat to his country. Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.
But at the same time that the tweetstorm was brewing, US News reported that an anonymous “senior administration official” said America is “not removing its forces from Syria in the face of a Turkish incursion.” The official went on to say that Trump had simply ordered approximately fifty special forces troops to relocate to “a different part of the country.”
But that’s sort of a distinction without a difference, isn’t it? If the expected Turkish assault is only going to move fewer than twenty miles into Syrian territory (as Erdogan intimated) and we’re pulling our troops to the south, that’s still “removing our forces” from the expected field of battle. Still, this apparent contradiction in the messaging makes me wonder if an extra night to sleep on it has the President reconsidering the plan.
I have no doubt that President Trump isn’t losing any sleep over the Washington Post’s comments about his “stunning ignorance” of the situation in Syria. He probably takes it as a badge of honor. But some of the other people weighing in must surely carry a bit more weight with him.
Two of the louder voices in Washington who are opposing this policy shift are Lindsay Graham and Cocaine Mitch. I’m not suggesting that Trump takes his marching orders directly from them (or anyone, for that matter) but he’s surely aware that if the Democrats move forward with impeachment, those will be two people he needs leading his defense in the Senate trial to follow. And they’re hardly alone. Elected officials and conservative media figures across the board are freaking out at this point, moreso than they have been over most any other controversial decision coming out of this White House.
The President is describing this as yet another campaign promise he’s keeping. Fair enough, but it’s not being done intelligently. Trump’s constant goal since taking office has been to keep his base revved up and solidly behind him. But those Republicans screaming most loudly about the abandonment of the Kurds were elected by that base. What few defenses of this decision I’ve seen thus far have been luke-warm and watered down at best.
If Erdogan’s forces come blasting into the border region this week and begin slaughtering the Kurds wholesale, the disaster will land squarely on the plate of Donald Trump and nobody else. And starting yet another trade war with Turkey in response isn’t going to solve anything. They’re already a marginal “ally” at best and such a move will simply push them further into Vladamir Putin’s arms all the faster. There is no good outcome from this scenario that I can see and the President needs to find a path to back away from this move even if he loses face in the process. Sadly, that seems totally out of character for him so I’m not hopeful at all.