I don’t get it. I’m looking at my Twitter timeline and seeing this speech by Mitt Romney being passed around as “brilliant” and “nine minutes worth listening to.” Then I watch it and it’s full of false characterizations, ridiculous assertions, and a complete lack of respect for what it costs to wage war. Maybe I just have higher standards for what qualifies as brilliant?
But first, let’s talk about the background. Yesterday, Turkey and the United States agreed to a tenuous five-day ceasefire in Northern Syria. This allows the Kurds to pull back from the border and set up the safe zone that was already negotiated last year. Some argue this is unfair but it’s not.
The PKK/YPG is a terrorist group. We allied with them to fight ISIS out of necessity, not because they are innocent bystanders in the geopolitics of the region, nor are these our traditional “Kurdish” allies in Iraq. The group has carried out terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of innocent people over the decades. These are simply facts that can’t be ignored, though Mitt Romney is going to do his darnedest in a minute to do so. Ever wonder why they changed their name to the SDF? It was because their history was so checkered that the Obama administration demanded they rebrand.
For Turkey’s part, their incursion is an overreaction, despite legitimate security concerns (of which even Sen. Lindsey Graham has admitted). They have no right to go kill civilians in response to the historical actions of the PKK/YPG. Left unchecked, that’d be a real possibility and just on principle, Turkey is a dictatorial dumpster fire.
Given the very complicated, gray nature of all this, the best outcome was a ceasefire that allows the Kurds to withdraw and avoid anymore major conflict. We simply can not guarantee an autonomous region for the Kurds in Northern Syria. That ceasefire is what has now been negotiated, with the Kurds agreeing to pull back.
This left Mitt Romney really upset.
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) October 17, 2019
You can watch the whole thing if you’d like, but it’s essentially exactly what you’d expect. At one point, he plays tough guy and opines that Turkey is a “small country” and projects that it should be exceptionally easy to deal with them. There’s no admission they are part of NATO or that war with Turkey would be profoundly harmful to the United States on a variety of levels.
I'm sorry but this is fundamentally unserious. Turkey isn't a "small country." it's the 2nd largest army in NATO. Our forces in Syria rely on the base in Turkey for air support and more. https://t.co/cGhxfbslN3
— Kyle Shideler (@ShidelerK) October 17, 2019
But the notion that the U.S. can respond however it likes in all places and times is silliness. We are perhaps more constrained that we have ever been, thanks to decisions made long before the current Administration. Pretending that isn't so is just clown-shoes.
— Kyle Shideler (@ShidelerK) October 17, 2019
At another point, Romney fumes that he doesn’t know why the Foreign Affairs Committee even exists in light of Trump’s decision to pull out. Perhaps we agree there. If these people were actually serious, they’d be fighting to pass a new AUMF and declare war on Turkey so we can “protect our allies,” because there is no way (outside of the already negotiated ceasefire) that we can protect the PKK/YPG otherwise.
Romney presents the situation like it’s game, as if he just virtue signals enough, that’ll change everything. Pretty words don’t fight wars. Worse, he won’t just say what he wants. If the ceasefire and coming sanctions aren’t good enough, what’s he want to do then? He won’t say because like most members of Congress, he’s too cowardly to admit his ultimate conclusion.
Message to Romney: If you truly believe in protecting the PKK/YPG, start stumping for a vote on a new AUMF.
His entire speech is fundamentally unserious. If we start killing Turks to stop their advance, we are inviting more cooperation between them and Russia, a major new war in the region, and an unprecedented crisis in NATO. There’s a reason no EU countries are rushing in to help here, even though they were far more at risk from ISIS and the refugee crisis than the United States. It’s an extremely volatile and complicated situation.
The ceasefire was the best, and really only outcome here that could prevent further harm from being done. If the PKK/YPG weren’t a terrorist group and we were actually formally allied with them, matters would be different. But the reality is what it is and Congress has done nothing to change that reality.
My concern: why would anyone join our military when our leaders don’t care about following the constitution they’re sworn to uphold? Daily Reminder: Congress has not declared war on Turkey or approved an alliance with Kurds in #Syria https://t.co/bDYOoNY0Nd
— Col. Rob Maness ret. (@RobManess) October 18, 2019
Romney goes on to say our actions are a “bloodstain” on American history, again ignoring all the complexities that exist and the fact that the majority of Americans do not want to risk getting involved in another war in the Middle East. What Romney says in this speech plays well with a certain minority of conservatives with big platforms, but it’s not mainstream at all.
My best advice for Trump skeptical Republicans, many of whom own blue check-marks on Twitter, is to stop trying to make this guy a thing. Mitt Romney is not a serious person. He’s a politician who sees a future opening to run for President, nothing more. That speech might as well be from 2003 given how tone-deaf it is to the realities on the ground. It’s the same rah-rah, Bush-esque foreign policy ranting we’ve heard for almost two decades that has led to so much jadedness, not just among Republicans, but among the entire country. Find a new hero.
Enjoying the read? Please visit my archive and check out some of my latest articles.
I’ve got a new twitter! Please help by following @bonchieredstate.