The development also suggested a determination by the president to remove American troops from dangerous or costly overseas deployments that was so strong it trumped traditional American strategic considerations, among them keeping powerful adversaries such as Russia and Iran from contesting U.S. influence in the Middle East. It overrode core national-security considerations such as counterterrorism, as well. This was true even for a deployment that was much smaller, less expensive, and more successful than the “endless wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq that Trump has lumped it in with.
This wasn’t just Trump engaging in one of his long-running rhetorical skirmishes with America’s partners. This was costing a partner territory. This was costing a partner lives. This was the U.S. military destroying its facilities and getting pelted with tomatoes by spurned partners as it rushed for the door.
What was especially jarring about the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria wasn’t that it happened, but how it happened.
“It seems to me that the president’s judgment on this is that American troops’ lives were saved and nothing else matters,” Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told me. (Khanna shares Trump’s desire to leave militarily from Syria but is critical of how the withdrawal has been carried out.) “There is no indication to me that he’s giving moral consideration to the lives of the Kurds. Maybe that’s what he means by ‘America First’: the diminishment of the moral consideration of non-American values and interests.”