The combination of a U.S. pullback and the escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities is creating a strategic nightmare for our country. Even if the five-day cease-fire announced Thursday holds, events of the past week have set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists. Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence. And we are ignoring Russia’s efforts to leverage its increasingly dominant position in Syria to amass power and influence throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Predictably, our adversaries seem to be relishing these developments. The resulting geopolitical chain reaction appears to have been perfectly distilled by an online video which, according to reports, shows a smiling Russian “journalist” strolling around a just-abandoned U.S. military base in northern Syria. A strategic calamity neatly captured in one Facebook post.
As we seek to pick up the pieces, we must remain guided by our national interests and not emotions. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s offensive into northeastern Syria is misguided, is it really the case that the United States would prefer that Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces control the region rather than Turkey, our NATO ally?