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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  1. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    In my life I watched my country sell out the South Vietnamese and now we’ll  do it to the Kurds. 

    “It’s okay Mountie, just say “But Gorsuch” a couple of hundred time and your shame will go away”. 

    • #31
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Mountie (View Comment):

    In my life I watched my country sell out the South Vietnamese and now we’ll do it to the Kurds.

    “It’s okay Mountie, just say “But Gorsuch” a couple of hundred time and your shame will go away”.

    I understand this sentiment and feel it too.  But is there an exit strategy that will not betray the Kurds?    Or will it always be the same story decade after decade?

    • #32
  3. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Mountie (View Comment):

    In my life I watched my country sell out the South Vietnamese and now we’ll do it to the Kurds.

    “It’s okay Mountie, just say “But Gorsuch” a couple of hundred time and your shame will go away”.

    You may vaguely recall that we had an actual “accord” with South and North Vietnam, and that we had been fighting North Vietnam. You might note that Turkey is our actual, legal obligations, ally in the region. 

    “Now?” Both Bushes sold out the Kurds, serially, leading in part to the current state of affairs. And we have an actual consulate in the Kurdish region of Iraq. You might wonder about the lack of coordination between the Kurds you are worried about and the Kurds in Iraq. Poke into it a bit further and you might find the factions in opposition to one another. 

    • #33
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Leaving Iraq was a mistake.  With no strong government in charge, it was easy for a group such as ISIS to form and fill the void left behind.  Syria however, has Assad.  He may be a total a**hole, but there’s no way he’d let a group like ISIS form.

    As for Turkey and the Kurds, I’d prefer to back the Kurds because Turkey is on the way to turning into an Islamic cesspool with Erdogan as its Grand Imam-Ayatollah-Caliphate.  However, I’m reminded of the Falklands War where we had to stand by and let two allies duke it out (although I suspect we secretly backed the British).  I’m sure we would have intervened if one side had begun to commit acts of brutality against the other.  This I suspect could happen in the Turkey-Kurd conflict, with Erdogan leading a campaign of cruelty against his opponent . . .

    • #34
  5. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I want to have a real discussion about what we are doing in the Middle East instead of name calling.

    • #35
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I want to have a real discussion about what we are doing in the Middle East instead of name calling.

    From what I heard on the radio, these Kurds while they have been battling ISIS, are not the Iraqi Kurds, and in fact, lean communist and Marxist.  We only had 50 troops in this northern area of Syria. It’s hard Bryan, to have an intelligent discussion about it, since the president has not addressed the American people on this decision and what was worked out with Turkey.  I really think he needs to stop blindsiding the military and the Republicans in Congress on these foreign policy moves.  If there was a small circle of advisors on this decision, who were they and what were the details?  This is too big to just “tweet out” and the next day Turkey is rolling in tanks.  There’s more at stake here and I am starting to feel like A – Turkey is not going to do anything he said with Trump and B – it may be causing a bigger crisis to snowball.  

    • #36
  7. Roosevelt Guck Inactive
    Roosevelt Guck
    @RooseveltGuck

    How does keeping troops in the region advance the interests of the US? Once you can answer that you can weigh the costs and benefits of keeping the troops there.

    I read a number arguments for keeping troops in Syria:

    Sen. Graham says IS will reconstitute itself if the US pulls out. I don’t think he envisions another Caliphate, however. That’s a straightforward cost/benefit answer.

    Protecting the Kurds is another argument some make for keeping the troops in Syria. Who are the troops protecting them from: Turks or Syrians or IS or Russians?

    What is it worth to the US to prevent an Iranian “Shia Crescent” from Syria to Lebanon to Gaza?

    Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Kurds and IS sparring  in the region. What could go wrong?

    The outcome to avoid is the one where US troops are there as “peacekeepers.” That never works out.

    • #37
  8. M1919A4 Member
    M1919A4
    @M1919A4

    I also have been trying to settle my own mind about what is going on in that area and how I feel about his decision on this point.  The most helpful thing that I have found is this piece by a Mr. Kurt Schlichter, who, I think must have at one time been a serving officer:

     https://townhall.com/columnists/kurtschlichter/2019/10/08/critics-aghast-as-trump-keeps-word-about-no-more-wars-n2554328

    I have tried to piece together his argument below:

    Donald Trump came into office promising to not start any new wars and to get us out of the old ones our feckless elite had dragged us into, and now that he’s doing it in Syria the usual suspects are outraged. 

    * * * *

    I generally like the Kurds. I generally dislike the Turks. But they’ve been killing each other for a long time and no one has yet offered a sufficient reason why America should stick its troops in the crossfire between them. We hear words like “betrayal” tossed around, . . . , but that assumes America had a say in this latest round ramping up. If the Turks are intent on invading, a firm “No” from the Oval office is not going to stop a battalion of Leopard tanks. If you want to stop them, you have to be prepared to stop them. That means war, and the president – along with millions of us – say “No thanks.”  [Emphasis supplied.]

    * * * *

    . . . . Moreover, all Kurds are not equal. The PKK – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – are a bunch of commie terrorists who have been fighting the Turks for a long time. Those reds are no friends of ours, and it’s their antics that seem to be inspiring the Turkish campaign. . . . .

    Moreover, we keep hearing about our “obligation” to the Kurds, but who is the genius who promised the Kurds that if Turkey attacked the United States would go to war? Would that promise be binding on us if it were? After all, I don’t recall my senators voting on a treaty – after debate and with accountability to us voters – agreeing to put American lives on the line to protect the sovereignty of hypothetical Kurdistan. . . . .

    I do note that there is one treaty, duly signed and ratified by the Senate, at play here. That’s the NATO treaty under which we agreed to go to war to defend Turkey if attacked. * * *

    None of this is to justify what Turkey is doing. I hope the tough and brave non-communist Kurds bloody these bullies’ noses. But I cannot think of any way to adequately explain to the mom and dad of a 20-year-old 82nd Airborne 11 Bravo paratrooper from Rancho Cucamonga why their son got his head blown off in Northern Syria fighting the Kurd’s war for them.

    * * * Okay critics, what’s our proposed objective in Northern Syria? Stop with the clichés about “betrayals” and “abandoning allies” and tell me – exactly – what we would seek to achieve. And then tell me – again, exactly – how many dead Americans we should sacrifice to achieve it.

    * * * If the president’s critics in Congress really want to be tough guys, let them pass a declaration of war and let them sign their names to the butcher’s bill instead of trying to get Trump to walk out to the end of the branch so they can saw it off. * * * * 

    . . . . We can’t garrison Syria forever. We can’t right every wrong around the globe. 

    How many dead Americans is it worth to stop the Turks and Kurds from brawling? I, and our president, say, “Exactly none.” Those who disagree owe us all an exact number of their own.

    I hope that I haven’t so chopped up Mr. Schlichter’s thoughts that I have made them unintelligible.  I found his argument persuasive.

     

     

    • #38
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    M1919A4 (View Comment):

    I also have been trying to settle my own mind about what is going on in that area and how I feel about his decision on this point. The most helpful thing that I have found is this piece by a Mr. Kurt Schlichter, who, I think must have at one time been a serving officer:

    https://townhall.com/columnists/kurtschlichter/2019/10/08/critics-aghast-as-trump-keeps-word-about-no-more-wars-n2554328

    I have tried to piece together his argument below:

    Donald Trump came into office promising to not start any new wars and to get us out of the old ones our feckless elite had dragged us into, and now that he’s doing it in Syria the usual suspects are outraged.

    * * * *

    I generally like the Kurds. I generally dislike the Turks. But they’ve been killing each other for a long time and no one has yet offered a sufficient reason why America should stick its troops in the crossfire between them. We hear words like “betrayal” tossed around, . . . , but that assumes America had a say in this latest round ramping up. If the Turks are intent on invading, a firm “No” from the Oval office is not going to stop a battalion of Leopard tanks. If you want to stop them, you have to be prepared to stop them. That means war, and the president – along with millions of us – say “No thanks.” [Emphasis supplied.]

    * * * *

    . . . . Moreover, all Kurds are not equal. The PKK – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – are a bunch of commie terrorists who have been fighting the Turks for a long time. Those reds are no friends of ours, and it’s their antics that seem to be inspiring the Turkish campaign. . . . .

    Moreover, we keep hearing about our “obligation” to the Kurds, but who is the genius who promised the Kurds that if Turkey attacked the United States would go to war? Would that promise be binding on us if it were? After all, I don’t recall my senators voting on a treaty – after debate and with accountability to us voters – agreeing to put American lives on the line to protect the sovereignty of hypothetical Kurdistan. . . . .

    I do note that there is one treaty, duly signed and ratified by the Senate, at play here. That’s the NATO treaty under which we agreed to go to war to defend Turkey if attacked. * * *

    None of this is to justify what Turkey is doing. I hope the tough and brave non-communist Kurds bloody these bullies’ noses. But I cannot think of any way to adequately explain to the mom and dad of a 20-year-old 82nd Airborne 11 Bravo paratrooper from Rancho Cucamonga why their son got his head blown off in Northern Syria fighting the Kurd’s war for them.

    * * * Okay critics, what’s our proposed objective in Northern Syria? Stop with the clichés about “betrayals” and “abandoning allies” and tell me – exactly – what we would seek to achieve. And then tell me – again, exactly – how many dead Americans we should sacrifice to achieve it.

    * * * If the president’s critics in Congress really want to be tough guys, let them pass a declaration of war and let them sign their names to the butcher’s bill instead of trying to get Trump to walk out to the end of the branch so they can saw it off. * * * *

    . . . . We can’t garrison Syria forever. We can’t right every wrong around the globe.

    How many dead Americans is it worth to stop the Turks and Kurds from brawling? I, and our president, say, “Exactly none.” Those who disagree owe us all an exact number of their own.

    I hope that I haven’t so chopped up Mr. Schlichter’s thoughts that I have made them unintelligible. I found his argument persuasive.

     

     

    Except “commie terrorist” is a convenient label for the Turkish government, which took advantage of our partnership in NATO to continue its domestic campaign, over the decades, of suppressing another ethnic group. That other ethnic group, without our support for decades, turned to the other big player, the Russians. The Russians were in their commie phase, so we got the PKK.

    President Trump has used economic pressure to get a Christian pastor freed from Turkish jail. He is talking now about using more economic sanctions, as well as offering to the honest broker/mutual friend of our Turkish ally and the Syrian Kurds.

    Thinking through the trip-wire argument, I do not think it makes sense. If the Turks announce they are going to start shelling and roll tanks into a town, and we say “hey we have three American military personnel there,” the obvious answer is “yes, and we’re giving you notice to move them out of the way.” 

    So, what is the next message from us? “No, we’re not moving.”

    The correct Turkish answer then is, “well then tell them to get real deep in their bunker, and give us a recognition signal when our tanks roll up on their location, since we both use NATO standard radio equipment and signals.”

    • #39
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I am always good to be on the side of Andrew McCarthy

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/10/turkey-and-the-kurds-its-more-complicated-than-you-think/

     

    The Kurds have been our allies against ISIS, but it is not for us that they have fought. They fight ISIS for themselves, with our help. They are seeking an autonomous zone and, ultimately, statehood. The editorial fails to note that the Kurds we have backed, led by the YPG (People’s Protection Units), are the Syrian branch of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Turkey. The PKK is a militant separatist organization with Marxist-Leninist roots. Although such informed observers as Michael Rubin contend that the PKK has “evolved,” it remains a formally designated foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law. While our government materially supports the PKK’s confederates, ordinary Americans have been prosecuted for materially supporting the PKK.

    The PKK has a long history of conducting terrorist attacks, but their quarrel is not with us. So why has our government designated them as terrorists? Because they have been fighting an insurgent war against Turkey for over 30 years. Turkey remains our NATO ally, even though the Erdogan government is one of the more duplicitous and anti-Western actors in a region that teems with them — as I’ve detailed over the years. The Erdogan problem complicates but does not change the fact that Turkey is of great strategic significance to our security.

    While it is a longer discussion, I would be open to considering the removal of both the PKK from the terrorist list and Turkey from NATO. For now, though, the blunt facts are that the PKK is a terrorist organization and Turkey is our ally. These are not mere technicalities. Contrary to the editorial’s suggestion, our government’s machinations in Syria have not put just one of our allies in a bind. There are two allies in this equation, and our support for one has already vexed the other. The ramifications are serious, not least Turkey’s continued lurch away from NATO and toward Moscow.

    That brings us to another non-technicality that the editors mention only in passing: Our intervention in Syria has never been authorized by Congress. Those of us who opposed intervention maintained that congressional authorization was necessary because there was no imminent threat to our nation. Contrary to the editorial’s suggestion, having U.S. forces “deter further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria” is not a mission for which Americans support committing our men and women in uniform. Such bloodlettings are the Muslim Middle East’s default condition, so the missions would never end.

    • #40
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Note, I posted the same thing in three threads because this conversation is taking place across them.

    • #41
  12. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    This is a really helpful discussion, y’all.

    Thank you.

    Carry on.

    • #42
  13. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Mountie (View Comment):

    In my life I watched my country sell out the South Vietnamese and now we’ll do it to the Kurds.

    “It’s okay Mountie, just say “But Gorsuch” a couple of hundred time and your shame will go away”.

    You may vaguely recall that we had an actual “accord” with South and North Vietnam, and that we had been fighting North Vietnam. You might note that Turkey is our actual, legal obligations, ally in the region.

    “Now?” Both Bushes sold out the Kurds, serially, leading in part to the current state of affairs. And we have an actual consulate in the Kurdish region of Iraq. You might wonder about the lack of coordination between the Kurds you are worried about and the Kurds in Iraq. Poke into it a bit further and you might find the factions in opposition to one another.

    I also remember a recalcitrant Congress, bent on flexing their ire and power, denying the very aid to the South Vietnamese that those accords provided for. Hence a sell out.  

    • #43
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