President Trump isn’t the first American leader to turn his back on foreign friends who were counting on U.S. assistance: President Dwight D. Eisenhower did it in Hungary in 1956; President John F. Kennedy in Cuba in 1961; and President Gerald Ford in South Vietnam in 1975. But no previous chief executive has ever sold out the United States’ allies as nonchalantly and unnecessarily as Trump has done with the Syrian Kurds.
At least with Eisenhower, Kennedy and Ford, there was a good reason they failed to come to the aid of freedom fighters: Doing so would have embroiled the United States in costly conflicts. Trump and his apologists would like to pretend that’s also the case today — that Trump pulled U.S. troops out of northern Syria to avoid a war with Turkey. But there is scant chance that Turkish troops would have invaded northern Syria if U.S. troops were standing in the way. That is why President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Trump to move the U.S. forces — and Trump, for reasons that remain mysterious, obliged. (Trump himself admitted in 2015 that “I have a little conflict of interest” because of two Trump Towers in Istanbul.)