Until days ago, a small number of United States troops were stationed in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish forces who helped defeat ISIS and guard its jailed fighters. Now the troops are gone on President Donald Trump’s orders; Turkey is invading; the Kurds are fleeing, leaving their prisoners unsecured; and ISIS fighters are escaping.
How does Trump defend this situation?
“Some people want the United States to protect the 7,000 mile away Border of Syria, presided over by Bashar al-Assad, our enemy,” he tweeted. “I would much rather focus on our Southern Border which abuts and is part of the United States of America.”
He’d have us believe that this is a campaign promise kept: an America First foreign policy that refuses to risk American blood or waste U.S. dollars in the Middle East.
“Now,” he claims, “we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home.”
But it isn’t so.
Take it from the Pentagon reporter at Fox News, who reports, “Since May, U.S. forces have increased in Middle East by ~14,000 ... There are currently more than 60,000 U.S. troops deployed to various countries and aboard warships.”
In another tweet, Trump declared, “The Endless Wars Must End!” To which a noninterventionist congressman, Justin Amash, retorted, “Then we’ll need a new president who will end them. President Trump has had nearly three years to end them and has done zero. He keeps sending more troops to the Middle East … He vetoed legislation that would have limited U.S. involvement in the Yemen war.”
In fact, even as Trump ordered those U.S. troops stationed beside the Kurds to move elsewhere in Syria or the Middle East––not back to the United States––he ordered other Americans to risk their lives thousands of miles from their families: He sent almost 2,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, a rich country with its own military, controlled by a regime that perpetrates brutal human-rights abuses.
The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was cited by Osama bin Laden to help convert men to al-Qaeda.
Daniel Larison argues:
In selling this terrible decision [Trump] boasted that the kingdom would pay for the costs of the deployment, as if that somehow made the decision to put more Americans at risk on behalf of a despotic client state all right. I very much doubt that is true. The Saudi government is still stiffing the administration for the payments it owes for refueling charges from the war on Yemen, and our government will probably never see a dime from them for the costs associated with these deployments. Even if the Saudis did foot the bill, this amounts to making part of the U.S. military into the Saudi government’s mercenary force, and that ought to be unacceptable to Americans.
Trump’s interventionism on Saudi Arabia’s behalf is certainly unacceptable to Congress, the body that the Constitution vests with the power to declare war. Earlier this year, the House approved a resolution, 247 to 175, directing the president to withdraw the U.S. from the Saudi war on Yemen. A bipartisan Senate majority had already approved the same resolution. But Trump defied those majorities. And he defied the will of Congress again to sell the Saudis arms.
Some Trump supporters will believe anything the president says. He relies on their credulity and misplaced trust. But anyone with Google and the slightest bit of skepticism can verify for themselves that Trump simply isn’t ending U.S. interventionism in the Middle East.
“He is a fraud,” Amash says. “His sudden concern about endless wars is just cover for his having facilitated a disaster.”
He’s flailing. There’s no telling what’s next.
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