Susan Rice, who served as a national-security adviser in Barack Obama’s administration, wrote: “The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”
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Wouldn’t it be better for a guy like that to preside over troops who are stateside with their families rather than deployed in a volatile war zone that he doesn’t understand, even as he shows a new willingness to micromanage?
The stance many foreign-policy hawks are taking is akin to granting that a reckless incompetent has temporarily taken over as on-duty surgeon and insisting that the hospital proceed with its brain operations anyway.
Now, it may be that there’s a persuasive case for staying in Syria a bit longer, until some specific, achievable, near-term goal is accomplished that improves the prospects of America’s Kurdish allies without incurring a greater risk of a world war or doing more damage to the rule of law or the democratic will or unduly endangering the lives of American troops. If so, let’s hear that plan.
Instead, most Syria hawks offer no alternative withdrawal date or evidence that the Kurds will be safer if our forces withdrew in one or five years. And there is good reason to think that part of the reason some hawks want to stay is to thwart Iran’s ambitions for the foreseeable future.
Even those Syria hawks are still right to fear for the Kurds, help make Americans aware of their plight, and urge reflection on U.S. obligations and a withdrawal’s likely effect, if any, on American credibility. And Syria doves are right to fear that the Kurds are being used as a pretext to advance a forever war in the Middle East and to guard against it.
Syria hawks ought not to invoke the Kurds to call for an indefinite U.S. deployment without addressing (among other things) the unfitness of this commander in chief to preside over a volatile occupation, the risks of wider war, the danger to our troops, the lack of an authorization to use military force in Syria, the illegality of staying in Syria to fight with Iran, and the damage done when any faction helps sever the constitutional mechanisms that keep war subject to democratic accountability.
What’s more, Syria hawks ought to reflect on their role in any future betrayal that Kurdish people in Syria suffer at the hands of the United States.
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I don’t know whether cooperating to fight ISIS, a common enemy, necessarily conferred an American obligation to protect the Kurds from Turkey. But if representations of that sort were made to Kurdish forces, they were irresponsible promises that could not be reliably kept by whoever made them. Any such promises were made without the backing of Congress or the citizenry in a conflict the U.S. entered without significant debate. It was always easy to see that the American public would eventually sour on having “boots on the ground” in Syria. Only a reckless gambler would’ve wagered that the public would tolerate an indefinite occupation as long as Syrian Kurds faced any danger.