The Syria Exit

 

President Donald Trump announced his desire to withdraw from Syria as one of his goals as president. I thought about this and it sounded like a good idea. The country of Syria has been a “thorn in the side” of many countries and people for a very long time. Syrian refugees are scattered across the world, like the Jews – desperate to return home, to family, history, their land – the land of their ancestors. Their president has been a “thorn in the side” of many countries and an enigma – what do we do with him? Bashar al-Assad never wanted the throne. Who knew?

Turkey wants its borders back. Iran wants a rumble. Israel just wants its security and safety, as the Jews begin another Yom Kippur. How long has this country and region been in turmoil? Is this a region that we can bring democracy to, or stability at minimum, as past administrations have tried? Is Donald Trump asking those questions, as our young soldiers hold the line?

I have to wonder – maybe it’s time to let the bigger thugs, the leaders of Turkey, Russia, and Syria, battle for their little piece of control and power. They can deal with the little thugs, ISIS, and regional conflicts – long and tribal, some who have no regard for life, culture, or the Syrians. This may be as good as it gets; I get where our president is coming from.

This is decades in the making; what has changed, as American leadership has changed? Is it time to let the age-old turmoil play itself out? We know Russia wants a foothold in the Middle East to control oil. They prop up their fellow thug Assad while stirring the pot, not because they care about the Syrians. What’s Turkey’s stake in this? Is it time to let the major players of this region contend with each other at long last?

What is the advantage of staying in this region?

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There are 43 comments.

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  1. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Thanks for posting this, as I think these are questions that must be asked. I am hoping others might have some answers. Because as much as I don’t like to abandon an ally, it doesn’t seem like it is ever a good time to withdraw from anyplace. So if not now, then when?

    • #1
    • October 8, 2019, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    It seems the neocons and others who are always crying that we must bring peace to the Middle East are all of the same voice: stay in. There are more questions than answers. The reality is we have lost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars to what end? What treaty obligations do we have should an all-out war involving the entire region break out? A quick look back through history reveals two horrible world wars began over relatively small territorial disputes. 

    • #2
    • October 8, 2019, at 4:37 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat: I have to wonder – maybe it’s time to let the bigger thugs, the leaders of – Turkey – Russia – Syria, battle for their little piece of control and power, and deal with the little thugs, ISIS and regional conflicts – long and tribal, some who have no regard for life, culture, or the Syrians. This may be as good as it gets – and I get where our president is coming from. 

    I am with you there. 

    I have had it with our boys and girls being maimed and dying so other people don’t get to kill each other off. 

    Let them wage their war. 

    • #3
    • October 8, 2019, at 5:10 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. DonG Coolidge

    We need to leave. We have bases in Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia (and Israel is an ally) giving is a heavy presence on all sides of Syria. 

    The fight is really about building pipelines from Iran to Europe. The sooner we leave the sooner those get built. (Note, Iran will use Qatar to hide sales.) Once those are built, it will reduce Russian influence over Europe, which is good. It will also give everyone in the region a financial incentive to behave. We should let Europe manage their own immigration without getting involved.

    • #4
    • October 8, 2019, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Franco Member

    I’m for getting out. There are lotsa good reasons.

    On top of those reasons, anything that makes Max Boot and Bill Kristol throw fits, McCain turn over in his grave, and Romney worry like a little girl has to be good.

    Here’s another reason: if we develop a reputation for never leaving, at some point there will be a strong resistance ( like now) of not ever engaging – no matter what. Maybe, some time in the future, it might be prudent to engage again on behalf of an ally. Under these ‘rules’ there will be a massive reluctance on the part of the American people, which might be detrimental to our abilities to negotiate and/or fight our enemies. 

     

    • #5
    • October 8, 2019, at 5:46 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  6. D.A. Venters Member

    As with many issues, there is the question of what to do, and then once that’s decided, how to do it.

    Most of the criticism of Trump on this that I have read is not so much focused on leaving vs staying, it’s how he is abandoning Allies, and leaving them to be slaughtered in very short order. Just giving the Turks and Russians a green light, apparently. That’s the criticism, anyway. Leaving Syria might be a good policy, but this seems like a bad way to do that. 

    • #6
    • October 8, 2019, at 6:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Most of the criticism of Trump on this that I have read is not so much focused on leaving vs staying, it’s how he is abandoning Allies, and leaving them to be slaughtered in very short order.

    Aren’t we forgetting that Turkey is a member of NATO ? Where are our fellow members on the Syria pullout?

    • #7
    • October 8, 2019, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. MarciN Member

    I wish there were an option to relocate any of the Kurdish people who would be willing to move. It’s not that crazy an idea–see the Diaspora on this Wikipedia page.

    There are two good reasons to pursue a mass relocation: one, it will in some measure help people who have befriended us at their own risk and help us maintain our self-respect as a moral nation, and two, we would deprive the Turkish government of the opportunity to enslave these people or torture them or imprison them, which so often happens when good people leave an area about to be taken over by thugs.

    If we do nothing, we may be helping to create the Armenia situation all over again. The Kurds will not be treated well by the Turks.

    In Myanmar, formerly called Burma, there is a group of about a million people called the Rohingya, who are considered “stateless”:

    The Rohingya people are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group who reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar (previously known as Burma). There were an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis. By December 2017, an estimated 625,000 refugees from Rakhine, Myanmar, had crossed the border into Bangladesh since August 2017. The majority are Muslim while a minority are Hindu. Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law. According to Human Rights Watch, the 1982 laws “effectively deny to the Rohingya the possibility of acquiring a nationality”. Although Rohingya history in the region can be traced back to the 8th century, Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight “national indigenous races.” They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs. The legal conditions faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar have been widely compared to apartheid by many international academics, analysts and political figures, including Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid activist.

    The Rohingya have faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991–1992, 2012, 2015, 2016–2017 and particularly in 2017-2018, when most of the Rohingya population of Myanmar was driven out of the country, into neighboring Bangladesh.

    UN officials and HRW have described Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing. The UN human rights envoy to Myanmar reported “the long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community . . . could amount to crimes against humanity,” and there have been warnings of an unfolding genocide. Yanghee Lee, the UN special investigator on Myanmar, believes the country wants to expel its entire Rohingya population.

    I see exactly this future for the Kurds if we do not act wisely. We are an intelligent country. We need to prevent this from happening to these people. They have been our friends.

    • #8
    • October 8, 2019, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. GrannyDude Member

    See, this is why it’s not a good idea to have unchecked immigration or to turn a blind eye to illegal aliens (arrest me, DiBlasio; I dare you). We may need the space, funding and goodwill to remain available for situations like this one—when men, women and children (who would, by and large, make excellent Americans!) need to find refuge from persecution. 

    • #9
    • October 8, 2019, at 7:33 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. MarciN Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    See, this is why it’s not a good idea to have unchecked immigration or to turn a blind eye to illegal aliens (arrest me, DiBlasio; I dare you). We may need the space, funding and goodwill to remain available for situations like this one—when men, women and children (who would, by and large, make excellent Americans!) need to find refuge from persecution.

    Exactly!

    • #10
    • October 8, 2019, at 7:41 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. KentForrester Coolidge

    Get out! We should have done it long ago.

    By the way, what are we doing with troops still in Germany? We’ve had them there since the end of the Second World War. (I was one of them.) Isn’t it time to come home?

    • #11
    • October 9, 2019, at 12:05 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Get out! We should have done it long ago.

    By the way, what are we doing with troops in Germany. We’ve had them there since the end of the Second World War. (I was one of them.) Isn’t it time to come home?

    Maybe because it is never wise to leave the Prussians (Germans) to their own devices.

    • #12
    • October 9, 2019, at 12:41 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Zafar Member

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Most of the criticism of Trump on this that I have read is not so much focused on leaving vs staying, it’s how he is abandoning Allies, and leaving them to be slaughtered in very short order.

    Aren’t we forgetting that Turkey is a member of NATO ? Where are our fellow members on the Syria pullout?

    Turkey is into it.

    Britain is not:

    Britain has said it is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held territory in Syria and that its foreign secretary has communicated its unhappiness with Donald Trump’s announcement of a US troop withdrawal from the area.

    And also

    Hundreds of British special forces soldiers will be pulled out of Syria if the US military withdraws completely, The Times has learnt.

    France also negging:

    The US decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria – leaving Turkey able to launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters – could pave the way for an Islamic State group resurgence, France’s Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly warned Monday.

    Though

    French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe said Tuesday that his country’s forces would remain in Syria to battle ISIS and defend Kurdish-led forces fighting the terror group.

    “The fight against Daesh is not over and continues alongside the [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF],” Phillippe told French lawmakers, using another term for ISIS. He then added: “Saying things with constancy and coherence is preferable to reacting to obvious hesitations from certain players, notably our American friends.”

    So….awkward?

    There are a lot of NATO members, but I think the US, the UK and France are the only ones with troops in Syria.

    Britain and France might be secretly relieved with the US providing an excuse (I don’t see France sticking it out alone for long), but also closer to Syria and with greater vulnerability to related terrorism (and with more citizens joining Daesh, so…maybe not).

    • #13
    • October 9, 2019, at 2:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Zafar Member

    Re: the claims that the US betrayal of the Kurds will have real consequences on who is willing to trust and ally with the US in the future, I don’t believe it.

    As needs must, there will always be desperate people and nations in the world.

    • #14
    • October 9, 2019, at 3:00 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Because we owe the Kurds what exactly? What demand do the Kurds have on our blood and treasure.

    America is not a person. We are a Republic. We lose focus. There is no imperial direction here. Americans cannot even depend on their own government to support them. What expectation should anyone else have? 

    I want our blood and treasure to be focused on our needs and what is best for us. I have yet to get much from anyone explaining how what we are doing around the Middle East helps keep us safe. 

    Just someone explain it to me. If it is so obvious, it must be easy to explain.

    • #15
    • October 9, 2019, at 5:54 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Re: the claims that the US betrayal of the Kurds will have real consequences on who is willing to trust and ally with the US in the future, I don’t believe it.

    As needs must, there will always be desperate people and nations in the world.

    Why do we seem to be the only ones who see the Kurds as our allies, to the point of staying in an endless conflict, and what other countries are willing to help them, as has been suggested on this thread, by offering relocation – if even temporary? 

    • #16
    • October 9, 2019, at 6:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Juliana Member

    I consider myself to be unfortunately uninformed about details of who, what, when, and where when it comes to the Middle East. We cannot fix every unfair situation in the world. And I do not believe ‘peace in the Middle East’ is possible, ever. We need to continue to support our ally, Israel, but we also have a right to operate in our best interests. We do not need to get involved in these internecine struggles where the only result is more bloodshed.

    I thought the reason for us fighting in Syria was to decimate ISIS. From what I understand, we have made great strides toward that goal. The Mideast is quicksand, it is time to get out.

    • #17
    • October 9, 2019, at 6:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I haven’t yet decided how to react to the President’s announcement. I am concerned about the extremely rapid denouncement by the usual NeverTrump folks, but it is not limited to them. Andrew Klavan’s show dealt with this yesterday. Pat Robertson came out strongly against the President’s move. Lindsay Graham was very concerned, though more measured in his criticism.

    The extremely short media cycle is a problem here. Politicians and pundits are expected to comment on complicated issues, in the space of a few minutes or hours. They must announce a position, which then becomes solidified, as they will “lose face” if they subsequently change their minds. Sometimes, we should take more time to think things through.

    Even if the policy turns out to be wise, I do not like the way that the President announced it through a Twitter post. There’s something about Twitter that doesn’t favor sensible communication.

    I think that the Turkish-Kurdish situation is complex. From a WSJ article yesterday (here):

    Civilians in the border area said they would sooner accept a return of the Syrian regime than occupation by Turkey, which is battling a three-decade Kurdish insurgency at home and views Kurdish military groups on both sides of the border as terrorists.

    I could certainly see how Turkey would view the Kurdish area of Syria in the same way that we viewed Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War, or even Afghanistan after 9/11. Such areas were providing a safe haven and base of operations for the enemy. As I understand it, Kurds in Turkey have been engaging in a campaign of insurgency and terrorism for quite such time. I’m sure that they have some reason for this, but I’m not willing to say that every time an ethnic or cultural group wants independence, the recognized nation must grant it.

    I’m quite unsatisfied with the trajectory of Turkey over the past 10-20 years. They remain a NATO ally, however, and the Kurds are, in fact, not really allies. The Kurds have no nation. They are a faction in Syria that sided with us in the war against ISIS. I’m undecided about whether or not the Kurds should have a nation. If the folks who are now complaining about abandonment of our Kurdish “allies” were in favor of Kurdish independence, I haven’t noticed any advocacy for this position before now.

    Turkey is a quite important country, forming a major part of Western defenses against possible Russian aggression (together with Poland and Romania, at present). It is not a good idea to alienate an important ally.

    I am nervous about the fact that neither Mattis nor Bolton remain on the President’s national security team. I’m glad that Pompeo is still there.

    The situation is quite complicated. I’m not going to make a decision now about whether to agree, or disagree, with the President’s decision.

     

    • #18
    • October 9, 2019, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Zafar Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Re: the claims that the US betrayal of the Kurds will have real consequences on who is willing to trust and ally with the US in the future, I don’t believe it.

    As needs must, there will always be desperate people and nations in the world.

    Why do we seem to be the only ones who see the Kurds as our allies, to the point of staying in an endless conflict, and what other countries are willing to help them, as has been suggested on this thread, by offering relocation – if even temporary?

    Imho the US was there for self interest, and that’s also why it’s exiting. 

    I don’t think it was about the Kurds. 

    • #19
    • October 9, 2019, at 6:51 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    Franco (View Comment):
    Here’s another reason: if we develop a reputation for never leaving, at some point there will be a strong resistance ( like now) of not ever engaging – no matter what. Maybe, some time in the future, it might be prudent to engage again on behalf of an ally. Under these ‘rules’ there will be a massive reluctance on the part of the American people, which might be detrimental to our abilities to negotiate and/or fight our enemies. 

    A very good point.

    • #20
    • October 9, 2019, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Gary Robbins Reagan

    I note that the precipitous withdrawal from Syria is what caused the most respected member of Trump’s cabinet, Jim Mattis, to resign in protest. I also note the strong objections of Lindsay Graham and Cocaine Mitch. Once again, we are deserting the Kurds. Once again.

    • #21
    • October 9, 2019, at 7:28 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    We tend to see the Kurds as a single entity — those brave fighters who assisted us against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But there are various factions, one of which has long been officially designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

    I recommend this for a little background.

    The Turkish offensive is aimed at clearing heavily Kurdish militia forces away from Turkey’s border. In Ankara’s eyes, these militias are partners of the PKK, the Kurdish separatist group whose insurgency has killed thousands. Some outsiders have seen evidence of PKK ties among the militias, too.

    In Turkey’s telling, a Kurdish state in Syria might drive Kurds in Turkey to demand the same for themselves. The Kurds might use that state as a haven, just like the PKK has done in northern Iraq. For Turkey, the Kurds are the muscle behind the government structures in northeastern Syria. For Turkey, the PKK is an enemy on par with al-Qaeda, one that must be kept far from the homeland. The Turks are outraged that their most important ally has cooperated with them.

    For Washington, Syria’s Kurdish militias are our main partner against the Islamic State. The United States agrees with Turkey that the PKK is a terrorist group (we’ve had them on our Foreign Terrorist Organization list longer than al-Qaeda or the Real IRA), but sees the militias in Syria as distinct from the PKK. We tend to be optimistic about Kurdish efforts to integrate non-Kurds into militias and governments east of the Euphrates. Many Americans remember years of cooperation with the Kurds against Saddam Hussein and against the Islamic State group. (A few Westerners have even joined the militias.)

    When Turks picture armed Syrian Kurds, they might remember hearing the news of a relative’s death in a battle with the PKK; when we picture armed Syrian Kurds, we see the telegenic female fighters of the YPJ. The two sides have very different views of the situation in northeastern Syria, and their views reflect different priorities.

    So while Turkey wants to push Syrian Kurdish forces away, the United States has long held that any fight between the two would be a distraction from preventing the return of the Islamic State. Hence the longstanding deployment of U.S. forces on what are effectively peacekeeping missions to keep our Kurdish friends and our Turkish allies from killing each other.

    As usual, it’s a big mess over there, and don’t count on our media (or the beltway pundits) to provide any nuance here.

    • #22
    • October 9, 2019, at 7:40 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    Another good read:

    Trump Gave Turkey A Choice on Syria: Cooperate With the U.S. Productively Or Risk Catastrophe

    • #23
    • October 9, 2019, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. SpiritO'78 Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I note that the precipitous withdrawal from Syria is what caused the most respected member of Trump’s cabinet, Jim Mattis, to resign in protest. I also note the strong objections of Lindsay Graham and Cocaine Mitch. Once again, we are deserting the Kurds. Once again.

    I think that’s where I’m at too Gary. I wonder if this was a total surprise though? The fact that Mattis tried to resign earlier should have been a signal to the Kurds and the Defense department that they were on borrowed time. I do hope Defense relayed that urgency to the Kurds. 

    • #24
    • October 9, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Britain and France might be secretly relieved with the US providing an excuse (I don’t see France sticking it out alone for long), but also closer to Syria and with greater vulnerability to related terrorism (and with more citizens joining Daesh, so…maybe not).

    Although there is no way to know this for certain, I wonder if this is an attempt on Trump’s part to have our NATO allies step up to the plate. All too often we, and a few troops from Britain and France, are left to defend places where there should be a major NATO presence.

    • #25
    • October 9, 2019, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    The situation is quite complicated. I’m not going to make a decision now about whether to agree, or disagree, with the President’s decision.

    A lot of us, along with the press, are arm chair quarterbacks lacking information most certainly available to Trump and the foreign relations people. I agree with you that we just don’t know enough about the complications.

    • #26
    • October 9, 2019, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Franco Member

    SpiritO'78 (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I note that the precipitous withdrawal from Syria is what caused the most respected member of Trump’s cabinet, Jim Mattis, to resign in protest. I also note the strong objections of Lindsay Graham and Cocaine Mitch. Once again, we are deserting the Kurds. Once again.

    I think that’s where I’m at too Gary. I wonder if this was a total surprise though? The fact that Mattis tried to resign earlier should have been a signal to the Kurds and the Defense department that they were on borrowed time. I do hope Defense relayed that urgency to the Kurds.

    Yes, that and the Bolton firing. Or maybe Trump told him the mustache had to go and so Bolton decided to bolt.

    • #27
    • October 9, 2019, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Al Kennedy Member

    Turkey’s Erdogan played President Trump like a violin. This is another example of foreign policy as how I feel at a given moment versus what is the long-term right thing to do. Trump has fallen for the same story that he criticized President Obama for and has given the same justification: my campaign promise made me do it.

    • #28
    • October 9, 2019, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  29. Zafar Member

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Britain and France might be secretly relieved with the US providing an excuse (I don’t see France sticking it out alone for long), but also closer to Syria and with greater vulnerability to related terrorism (and with more citizens joining Daesh, so…maybe not).

    Although there is no way to know this for certain, I wonder if this is an attempt on Trump’s part to have our NATO allies step up to the plate. All too often we, and a few troops from Britain and France, are left to defend places where there should be a major NATO presence.

    They may not see the need to be there re Assad. 

    • #29
    • October 9, 2019, at 4:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    I bought the Sept./Oct. issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine about 6 weeks ago because it has the leaders of China, Turkey, Russia, Hungary and the Philippines on the cover, their bodies blended together as black scribble with a red background. The issue reviews each of these backgrounds and rise to power, their youth and influences. It’s very interesting and the Title is called Autocracy Now.

    I can’t say it’s all that flattering as you might expect, and I hope our president wasn’t duped. It says Turkey wanted to modernize, and become part of the global arena, but like the others, squash dissent at every turn. He keeps getting re-elected. Also Turkey’s furthering Islam and leaning its NATO votes toward the other leaders mentioned…..so……like the Arab Spring, could Trump’s move backfire? It seems many conservative voices are saying so….Israel may be very worried. When can we stop being nervous?

    • #30
    • October 9, 2019, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • Like
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