I had eye surgery today, and that is making writing this post difficult; I apologize in advance for any typos or other misgoofs.
President Trump: “I have to sign letters often to parents of young soldiers that were killed and it’s the hardest thing I have to do in this job.”
“I hate it. I hate it.” pic.twitter.com/XNNWsPSioh
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) October 7, 2019
I saw the various complaints, not only from the left, from the Democrats, but also from Republicans. Our former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted:
We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.
I respect Mrs Haley, but President Trump is the one who is right on this. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and many other congressional Republicans and Democrats alike criticized the announced withdrawal.
Bill Kristol, for whom I have far less respect, wrote:
Lindsey Graham calls Trump’s decision “shortsighted and irresponsible” and “unnerving to its core.” Perhaps other Trump defenders could speak up? Perhaps they could stop being his defenders? Perhaps former Trump officials could say publicly how dangerous a second term would be?
Mr Kristol is one of the original neo-conservatives, who seems to be willing to send American troops just about anywhere. Yet Mr Kristol, born on December 23, 1952, was certainly of age to have gone into the United States Army, and served in the tail end of the War in Vietnam. On September 28, 1971, President Nixon signed legislation which ended the II-S student deferments, as Mr Kristol was entering college. His Wikipedia biography does not indicate that Mr Kristol served in the military² . . . but he’s certainly willing to send other people’s children into harm’s way.
Another neo-conservative, Max Boot, has the luxury of his own column in The Washington Post. Mr Boot, whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1976, when he was seven years old, and who is now (supposedly) an expert in military history, also appears to have skipped military service in the United States, but he, too, is willing to send other people’s children in harm’s way.
By Max Boot | October 7, 2019 | 3:28 p.m. EDT
Normally, a president facing impeachment argues that those proceedings are a grave distraction from his weighty foreign policy responsibilities, and that national security will suffer as a result. In President Trump’s case, a distraction is a good thing, because when he focuses spastically and sporadically on foreign policy, he usually makes the situation far worse.
Think of Trump’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, which has led Tehran to accelerate its enrichment of fissile material and its attacks on neighbors. Or Trump’s love affair with Kim Jong Un, which has allowed the North Korean tyrant to continue developing his nuclear and missile programs while escaping international isolation. (U.S. talks with North Korea broke down again this weekend.²) Or Trump’s costly trade war with China, which has no end in sight. Or Trump’s attempts to enlist countries such as Ukraine and Australia in his domestic political vendettas, which places them in an impossible position.
One of the few bright spots in the president’s calamitous foreign policy has been the battle against the Islamic State. Trump inherited from President Barack Obama a sensible strategy which depended on augmenting the Syrian Democratic Forces (primarily Kurdish fighters) with U.S. advisers and air support. The result was the smashing of the Islamic State’s caliphate and the establishment of a U.S.-backed zone in eastern Syria that prevented Bashar al-Assad from extending his rule across the entire country with the help of his Iranian and Russian allies.
Alas, Trump cannot help but mess with success. In December, after a call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he announced a pullout of all U.S. forces from Syria, causing then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, then the senior envoy in the fight against the Islamic State, to resign in disgust. John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, eventually convinced the mercurial president to merely reduce the number of U.S. troops in Syria from 2,000 to fewer than 1,000. Even this move, though not as bad as a complete pullout, has proved costly.
There’s more at the original.
There is no doubt about one thing: supporting the Kurds is the right thing to do. The elder President Bush erred when, following the victory in the first Persian Gulf War, he didn’t support the aspirations for Kurdish liberty from Iraq. Instead, he stopped the war too soon, which allowed Saddam Hussein to not only survive, but for his Ba’ath Party forces to kill large numbers of Kurds in northern Iraq.
The younger President Bush failed as well, promising Turkey that he would not form an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq; the Kurdish regions extend through Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran and into Armenia.
But if supporting the Kurds is the right thing to do, it comes with a price, and it is a price President Trump is unwilling to pay: he does not want to waste American soldiers’ lives on an ethnic struggle which has been going on for centuries.
Our recent wars should have taught us a lesson: in battles in far away lands, if we are not fighting for our own national interests, and if we are not willing to use the full force of American military might to, let’s be blunt about it, blast and kill until the enemy, fighters and non-combatants alike, are a bare and wasted remnant who no longer have the ability to fight, we lose! We lost in Vietnam because the Vietnamese Communists were more willing to die for their country than we were willing to go on killing them. We lost in Iraq because, despite all of our efforts subjugate the country, and our forcing of democratic elections, Iraq is not a Western nation, not governable by Western ideals. And we are losing in Afghanistan because, as the British and the Russians learned before us, Afghanistan is ungovernable by anyone but Afghanis . . . and even by themselves, not so much.
That’s a lesson that stupid old Donald Trump, who himself avoided military service by claiming bone spurs in his feet, managed to learn, while highly educated and sophisticated people like Messrs Boot and Kristol never did. The President, at least, seems rather unwilling to squander more American lives.
It’s easy for Messrs Boot and Kristol to say we should have American troops in harm’s way, when they don’t have the actual responsibility of sending them there; it’s easy to say that our soldiers should be there to help, when they aren’t the one who has to sign those letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.
Yes, there are certain things for which we must fight, but is Kurdistan one of them? We have been unwilling to attempt to establish an independent Kurdistan, in that such would take land away from several established nations, including Iran and including NATO-member Turkey. Given that the Kurds seem to be unable to defend themselves against either the Turks or the Iranians, establishing such a nation would mean a long term American military presence there to defend. If it were established only in Iraq and Syria, the bellicosity of the Kurds would eventually result in skirmishes — at the very least — in Turkey and Iran.
Sometimes things that would be nice to see are still not sufficiently in American interests to justify armed intervention. However he has arrived at that, President Trump has realized it.
¹ – Full disclosure: I am just four months younger than Mr Kristol, and did not serve in the military. That, however, was not my choice: I volunteered, but my right eye was simply too poor to pass the physical.
² – Mr Boot is doubtlessly pleased about this, given that he didn’t want the President to negotiate with North Korea at all.
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