Trump’s Abandonment of Syrian Christians and US Allies Could Doom Him
Donald Trump follows his gut. Sometimes the result is genius: the man built dozens of companies. Sometimes it’s not — a few of them went bankrupt. And the President’s impulsive decision to ignore virtually all his own handpicked advisers and surrender to Turkey in Syria? It’s thoroughly bankrupt. In fact, it’s insolvent militarily, strategically, politically and morally.
Like Giving France Back to the Nazi in 1945
Trump seems about to throw away the American coalition’s victory over ISIS. The Syrian Democratic Forces who did the bulk of the fighting captured many thousands of ISIS fighters. They hold them and their families, an estimated 60,000 people, near Iraq border.
If Trump lets Turkey and its al Qaeda jihadist allies invade the Kurdish heartland, the SDF won’t waste its soldiers on guard duty. It has announced it will release the ISIS fighters. Overnight, ISIS is back. It will likely stream into nearby Iraq, and prove the last straw in collapsing that country’s already fragile government. Christians and Yezidis will once again be killed, raped and sex trafficked. Iraq will likely collapse again into civil war. That will leave the only power in the region capable of picking up the pieces: Iran.
Don’t Ally with America: We Will Betray You
The U.S. has few reliable allies in the region. Few of those share our values of religious freedom and democracy. The closest thing outside Israel to such a genuine U.S. ally is the decentralized, non-sectarian Federation of Northern Syria. If Turkey rips out its heart via this invasion, the U.S. will have one fewer card to play. We used the SDF as proxies against ISIS. If we throw them to the wolves the moment we are finished with them, who will ally with the U.S. next time? Who wants to end up like the South Vietnamese?
Will Our Soldiers Be Used to Trap Our Allies?
Nor are we even pulling out of Syria. U.S. troops will apparently retreat to make room for Turkish invaders and jihadi militias. But we will remain in Syria nearby. Would our troops let the SDF escape to Assad’s zone of control? Or, as one close observer of the scene remarked to me, is the whole point of leaving U.S. troops in Syria to prevent that? To keep the SDF from reluctantly joining Assad, bolstering his strength and Russia’s position? What if our troops end up trapping the Syrian Christians, Kurds, and others in the Turkish killing zone? That would reduce our brave troops to serving as de facto concentration camp guards.
Stung by blowback from across the political spectrum at such a prospect, President Trump has tried to project firmness. Bloomberg News reports:
Donald Trump appeared to backpedal after giving Turkey a green light to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria, warning Ankara in a tweet that he would “totally destroy and obliterate” the country’s economy if it takes unspecified “off limits” actions.
Translate that into reality: We are pulling out our troops, so Turkey can repeat the butchery it committed in Afrin, Syria in January. But if Turkey does again what it already did once and has promised to do again? We’ll slap it with … economic sanctions. Is that likely to impress the dictator who wants to re-build the Ottoman Empire? A man who has clapped tens of thousands of journalists in jail?
Look, I’m a skeptic of U.S. intervention. I was one of the few conservatives to oppose the Iraq war back in 2002. But U.S. soldiers aren’t fighting in Syria now, and Trump’s not bringing them home. He’s just moving them around from where they are useful to where they’ll be useless.
Throw the Christians to the Wolves
Trump may very well alienate key allies by this move, at a time when he needs them most. The Christian right has spoken up more and more about the fate of Syrian Christians. At last we make some atonement for our total neglect of Christians in Iraq, 75 percent of whom Islamists killed or made refugees while U.S. troops looked on. See Gov. Mike Huckabee’s comments from this morning:
I generally support @POTUS on foreign policy & don’t want our troops fighting other nations’ wars, but a HUGE mistake to abandon Kurds. They’ve never asked us to do THEIR fighting-just give them tools to defend themselves. They have been faithful allies. We CANNOT abandon them.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) October 7, 2019
Even as the Democrats try to impeach and remove Trump from office over frivolous non-offenses, does Trump really need video of al Qaeda blowing up Kurdish churches, just a few miles from U.S. troops? Does he need senators like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham wondering whether it might be preferable to have Mike Pence sitting in the White House?
A Breathtaking Synergy of Cynicism and Stupidity
This move by Trump is morally utterly bankrupt. The soldiers of the SDF are still recovering from their injuries from fighting ISIS. Tens of thousands died in the fight. Their sacrifice allowed U.S. Special Forces stay behind the lines, doing intel work and directing airstrikes. Our casualties were in the dozens, by comparison.
Hollowing Out Trump’s Own Words
What’s worst? This cave-in by Trump to Turkey makes a mockery of the president’s own words on religious freedom. When the president visited the U.N., he pledged that the U.S. will make religious liberty a keystone of our diplomacy. Do you remember President Trump saying:
The United States will cynically consign thousands of religious minorities to persecution by jihadi death squads. We will withdraw our troops from our own combat allies, and leave them to be persecuted by al Qaeda. We will empower the very terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our troops will trap local religious minorities in a killing zone, so Muslim converts to Christianity can be identified and executed. This is our national commitment.
No? That’s because Trump never said that. In fact, he said the following:
[T]he United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution.
To stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed, America stands with believers in every country who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts.
As President, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities and always has been.
If President Trump really intends to cravenly abandon our allies and local Christians to jihadi persecution, maybe he should have gone with the first text instead.