America’s NATO allies are aghast at Turkey’s brutality, but they also consider U.S. actions egregious. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “President Trump doesn’t seem to have opposed the operation the Turks are carrying out today, even though much firmer positions are being asserted today.”
It is important for U.S. troops and for the U.S. public to hear the Pentagon’s civilian leader explain military policies. And Esper, to his credit, isn’t hiding from the media. But the contortions he’s performing to justify the president’s decisions are painful to watch: “To be clear, we are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces,” he told reporters, “and U.S. troops remain with them in other parts of Syria. The impulsive action of President Erdoğan to invade northern Syria has put the United States in a tough situation.”
Both the president and Esper make it sound as though there were no alternatives to either fighting a two-front war against both Syria and Turkey or completely withdrawing U.S. forces. This is the kind of straw man that made Republicans scoff at President Barack Obama and his acolytes, when they suggested they had to either abandon Iraq or avoid Syria. There is a wider range of choices available than doing nothing or landing an invasion force at Normandy, to use Trump’s favorite test of allied worth.