U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Not Only a Betrayal of the Kurds But Bad Policy

During the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Trump pointed out, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.”

In this speech, Trump’s message was that each country should worry about its own interests. This, however, seems out of keeping with a major policy reversal that followed a couple weeks later which appears not at all to be in the best interests of the United States.

In a phone call with President Erdogan on October 7th, Trump abruptly changed course and agreed to withdraw the small contingent of American troops in Northern Syria. This left our allies, the Kurds, who helped defeat ISIS in Syria in a situation of dangerous vulnerability as Turkish troops proceeded to move into the area. Consistent with his speech at the UN, Trump justified his withdrawal from Northern Syria by pointing out that the step is aimed at ending endless wars. He added that “going into the Middle East is the worst decision ever made in the history of our country,” dismissing not only the war in Iraq but also the entire American involvement in the Middle East, which preceded the war in Iraq by half a century.

With this step, Trump doubled down on the Obama administration’s policy of disengagement from the Middle East. Indeed, both Obama and Trump share the view that the U.S. has been too involved in the Middle East. Thus, the Obama administration allowed the Russians to take over Syria thinking that the Russians would be the ones heading into a quagmire. The Trump administration claims that the U.S. has now achieved energy independence by producing its own oil and thus no longer needs to be involved in the Middle East. This is a misconception because our involvement in the Middle East is a way to protect the West, and in addition, as the events of 9/11 have shown, there are groups in the Middle East that export terrorism and thus threaten U.S. security and U.S citizens. The number of Salafist groups based in the Middle East is large.

The presence of American troops in Northern Syria constituted a deterrent factor against ISIS and against Turkish aggression against our allies. The Kurdish militias gave their soul and their lives to fight ISIS. American casualties have been minimal but its presence has been very important. The Administration’s move is a gift to Turkey, whose Islamist government has displayed contempt for NATO and NATO allies; has allied itself with Russia and Iran; and has developed dangerous hostility towards Israel. Turkey should have been expelled from NATO.  Instead it was rewarded with a medieval sacrifice of an ally.

The move is also a gift to the Assad regime, Iran, Russia and ISIS.

By appealing to the principle of “ending the endless wars,” the United States gives the appearance of being fearful of military confrontation. In the eyes of our adversaries, the U.S. is seen more and more as a paper tiger whose deterring force is meaningless. Our adversaries may then come to believe that whatever they do against U.S. interests will go unanswered. Likewise, it raises serious concerns among NATO members, and ally countries such as South Korea, Israel, Japan and Taiwan.

Trump’s “America First” and anti-global view could result in a situation that may come back to haunt us which would turn “America First” into “America Last”.

If we decide, as the major superpower in the world, to abandon our allies and withdraw from world affairs, the Russians and the Chinese will step in.

Russia and China are increasingly involved in world affairs and not necessarily in a benign way. They have supported every anti-American regime. In the Middle East, they are supporting the Assad regime as well as Turkey, and are firmly standing by Iran as it comes under U.S. pressure. At the same time, Russia, Iran and China have courted the weak Iraqi government while we are standing by, watching and doing nothing except licking our wounds over the war in Iraq. We could well be working with the government not only in expelling Iranian influence but also helping support their democracy. As I pointed out elsewhere, China, like Russia, are strengthening authoritarian regimes all over the world. Not every authoritarian regime is anti-American, but more often than not, they are.

Thus, the U.S. isolationist approach will have repercussions not only in the Middle East but in other regions such as Asia and Latin America. In Latin America, a large U.S. neighbor and of strategic importance to us, Russia and China have increased their involvement exponentially by supporting rogue and mafia states such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and by investing in infrastructure projects in these countries.

And there is more: The recent Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities with highly precise and sophisticated missiles shows that we can be equally vulnerable if Iran launches these missiles from a “friendly” country such as Venezuela or Cuba into our territory.

Therefore, “Patriotism over globalism,” “America First” and “Ending the endless wars” could mean precisely the opposite; this is dangerous for our image, for our national security and for our domestic and national well-being.

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Author: Luis Fleischman


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