07 October 2019


By now everyone has heard about Trump's decision to withdraw the US military presence from northern Syria and effectively greenlight a Turkish invasion there.  The target of this incursion, of course, is the YPG (People's Protection Units), the Kurdish militia which now controls roughly the northeastern third of Syria after taking that territory from Dâ'ish (ISIL).  The YPG is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant organization among the ethnic Kurdish minority within Turkey.

The YPG has been supported by the US during the long war against Dâ'ish.  It was chiefly the Kurds, including the YPG and the Kurdish militias of Iraq, that achieved the defeat of Dâ'ish -- though they did have help from the US, Iran, and various Arab governments and militias.  But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization due to its ties with the PKK, and has long aspired to crush it.

What Trump is doing here is betraying an ally to destruction at the hands of its much more powerful enemy.  While the US has been disappointingly un-supportive of Kurdish aspirations for a recognized independent state in the liberated ethnic-Kurdish lands of northern Iraq and Syria (something the Kurds' immense sacrifices and struggle against Dâ'ish have surely earned), it has at least maintained enough of a presence to restrain Turkey.  Now Trump wants to take that away.

It's highly unlikely that Trump even understands what he's doing here.  The Middle East is a complicated place, and Syria and its relations with its neighbors form the most complicated tangle within it.  A US official who heard Trump's phone discussion with Turkish president Erdoğan, which led to the withdrawal decision, said that Trump "got rolled" by Erdoğan.

I argued last year that Trump's cavalier rhetoric and dismissive stance toward US allies could end up restructuring and destabilizing the system of power relations which has broadly prevailed in the world since 1945.  The more unreliable US alliances appear, the more the leaders of other countries will need to consider other options for guaranteeing their national security.  For example, if Japan and Taiwan fear that they cannot count on the US to stand with them against possible aggression by China, those countries might well decide they need independent nuclear deterrent forces of their own.

But what Trump is now doing goes beyond rhetoric.  He's actually openly throwing an ally to the wolves.  The implications of this will not go unnoticed in Taipei or Tokyo -- or in Beijing.

Needless to say, if we had a real president, this situation would not have arisen.

The move has triggered a firestorm of opposition from other US leaders, including some Republicans.  I suppose it's possible Trump will reverse himself.  But it is now clearer than ever that this man is grossly incapable of properly handling the responsibilities of the office he holds.

[Image at top:  Kurdish YPG soldiers in Syria]


Blogger Lady M said...

Trump is a simpleton who does not bother to read nor dig deep into any situation. He doesn't listen to advisors who have studied and been involved in foriegn policy or any policy for that matter. He just makes it up as he goes along which is so unsettling.

07 October, 2019 16:44  
Blogger Adam said...

Syria probably will never see peace.

07 October, 2019 20:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: No, he doesn't listen to anybody. It's understandable that any given president doesn't understand the Middle East very well -- it's a very complex region -- but presidents have advisers who are experts. Obama knew what he didn't know, and listened to people who did know. Trump can't do that.

Adam: Probably not anytime soon. Syria has had periods of centuries when it was at peace, but those were times when it was part of one of the big empires of the region. Right now it's a horrible mess -- too many conflicting factions, too many powerful outside actors meddling. Aside from technological backwardness, Syria was better off under the Ottomans or the French.

07 October, 2019 20:29  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Yeah it's just not right what's happening right now. But a lot of people can see that so hopefully this counts against Trump during the election.

08 October, 2019 12:20  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

A solid post. Sadly, this was not unexpected in regards to Trump. He simply does not care about the Kurds, period. No money in it for him? No need to bother.

...Of course, you should know that there were a few tweets and comments from some on the far Left that showed them criticizing...Hillary Clinton. Because apparently if Hillary was President, it would be, in the words of one...idiot, "forever war". But Trump's pulling US troops out and ending endless war (yeah, right) but in the eyes of these fools, that's fine.

08 October, 2019 13:19  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

What you've written is correct and shows you have more understanding of that part of the M.E. than Trump has."I want to leave." is not a foreign policy, but Trump hasn't the brain cells to deveop a policy for leaving and he certainly demonstrated that he will not seek advise on how to do so.

There is no policy, no thought on consequences, no understanding. A perfect combination for disaster for the Kurds and other allies in the area.

If impeachment doesn't result in throwing his ass out of office, we need to make sure that happens in 2020. What else is there left to do?

08 October, 2019 13:56  
Blogger Hackwhackers said...

Trump's reckless disregard for the Kurds' survival is another manifestation of his venal sociopathy that he displays in both domestic and foreign matters. After this debacle, who would want to join us in common cause?

08 October, 2019 14:36  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Trump has insulted many traditional allies of the United States since taking office (including Canada) but the Kurds he has essentially condemned to death. Let all allies take note.

08 October, 2019 19:57  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: I hope it will. Unfortunately a lot of good people will end up dead in the process.

Marc: One would expect most presidents to at least care about the perceived reliability of the US as an ally, but Trump may just be too dim to grasp the connection.

Shaw: Unfortunately so. I still think the likelihood of impeachment removing Trump is negligible. The election has to be our focus.

Hackwhackers: Ultimately he doesn't care about anyone but himself.

Debra: I'm sure there are some very concerned discussions going on within certain governments already.

09 October, 2019 08:11  
Blogger jenny_o said...

I dread to think of the lives lost due to his ego.

09 October, 2019 17:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jenny_o: That could end up being a lot of lives, especially if the ISIL prisoners now held by the Kurds escape in the confusion. It could lead to a new wave of terrorism, on top of all the Kurdish fighters who will be killed trying to protect their people from the Turks.

10 October, 2019 09:44  

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