While Trump’s motives or thought process for the latest move aren’t exactly clear – as ever – that he has enraged conservative and liberal interventionists alike is as reassuring as it is alarming. Belligerent meddling is now embedded in the west’s world view. But just as there is rarely a good time to intervene in other people’s troubles, so there is rarely a good time to stop. Were there a way in which a US army could swiftly bring peace and concord to northern Syria it might be different. There is none. Nothing in the modern history of the Middle East – not the Taliban or the Saddam or Assad regimes – has equalled the horror unleashed by the US’s “wars of 9/11”. They have come to seem as interminable as they are unspeakable.
As in any intervention, narratives evolve and alliances are formed. Most foolish was the encouragement and aid offered since 2015 to rebels in the Syrian civil war fighting against Bashar al-Assad – a war which David Cameron was inexplicably eager to have the UK join. As northern Iraq descended into chaos and the Kurds were emboldened to increase their pressure on Turkey, Syria became the venue for a nightmare three-way conflict. Throughout it, the US backed the Kurds.