U.S. vehicles in northeast Syria, on Oct. 7.
/ October 11, 2019
Jeffrey T. Kuhner
President Trump is again under siege from the Beltway elite. His crime? The decision to finally pull all U.S. forces out of Syria — fulfilling a seminal campaign pledge.
Both Republicans and Democrats, FOX News and CNN, the right and the left, are united in their furious opposition to Trump’s announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria in the face of a massive Turkish invasion. He is being pilloried for “betraying” our allies, the Kurds, who were pivotal in the fight against ISIS. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the valiant Kurds, have now been left to confront alone the rampaging army of Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to the political and media establishment, Trump’s abandonment of our Kurdish allies will not only result in a bloodbath, but it has destroyed America’s credibility on the world stage. They argue our allies and strategic partners will no longer trust us. As Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, put it, Trump has made a mistake of “historic proportions.”
Nonsense. Whenever there is “bipartisan” support for anything, it’s a good rule of thumb to be skeptical and suspicious. The real reason the War Party is crying foul is that Trump is serious about ending our endless wars in the blood-soaked Middle East. This has nothing to do with protecting our allies; rather, it has everything to do with upholding the American Empire and its evil twin, the military-industrial complex.
The same media elites that are howling about the Kurds had no problem when the United States abandoned South Vietnam to communism — and genocidal mass murder. Nor did they scream betrayal when President Obama unilaterally pulled all U.S. forces out of Iraq, thereby snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Trump is right for one seminal reason: Our U.S. troop presence in Syria is illegal. Obama inserted American forces without congressional authorization. We have no business being there. Only in Washington, can a president be denounced for ending a criminal war using illegal troop deployments.
Moreover, Trump is not betraying the Kurds. That SDF forces did much of the fighting on the ground to smash ISIS is undeniable. The Kurds did help us defeat the Islamic State caliphate. But they didn’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts. ISIS posed an existential threat to the Kurds in northeastern Syria. They fought because they had to. The Kurds faced a stark choice: fight or be annihilated. It was the United States — in particular, the Trump administration — that armed, trained and funded the SDF, as well as providing crucial air power, enabling the Kurds to triumph over ISIS. The Kurds needed us much more than we needed them.
Which begs the question: Why should the United States defend the Kurds against Turkey? There is no American national interest at stake. American’s strategic goal was to knock out the ISIS caliphate. That mission has been accomplished. It’s time to bring the troops home. Instead, our elites want U.S. forces to guard the borders of Syria, while our own borders remain unprotected. This is the logic — and folly — of empire.
If Trump decided to defend the Kurds, we would now be at war with Turkey — a NATO ally member. It would tear the alliance apart, as Germany and France, with surging and restive Muslim populations, would be compelled to side with Ankara against Washington. And Trump would be plunging the United States into another Mideast war.
The tragic reality is that it is up to the Kurds to defend their ancestral lands, their homes and their culture from Turkish aggression. The obvious play is for the Syrian Kurds to cut a deal with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus: regional autonomy in exchange for a military alliance. The Kurds must look to Assad, Russia and Iran to help repel Turkey’s invasion. After all, Ankara is now violating Syria’s sovereignty. Assad and his allies must confront Erdogan. It’s their problem, not ours.
There has been a lot of mythologizing about the Kurds. And although I sympathize with their struggle against Turkey’s iron rule, the Kurds have no one to blame but themselves. They were willing collaborators in the massacre of over one million Armenian and Greek Christians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 — the first genocide of the 20th century. Having been fierce mercenaries for Islamist Turkey, the Kurds have become their vassals.
The ruling class cares nothing about betrayal. For decades, they have been betraying millions of their fellow Americans through open borders, free trade and endless wars. Trump, however, is the very opposite: He is an anti-globalist and seeks to extricate us from imperial entanglements, especially in the Middle East. His job as commander-in-chief is not to put Kurdistan first, but America first.
It’s time we got out of Syria — the sooner, the better.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at WorldTribune.com and the host of “The Kuhner Report” weekdays 6-10 a.m. EST on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.
Free Press International