The Kurds Suffered Over 11,000 deaths in Our Shared Fight against ISIS. Trump Thrashed That Sacrifice as an Afterthought
Let’s be clear about two things up front. First, the Kurds fought hard – are still fighting – for their own, valid reasons. They were not just helping us. Second, there are ties between the Syrian Kurds and the PKK, a shadowy group of Turkish Kurds fairly described often as Marxist terrorist. All of that is true. None of it justifies what Trump has done.
Trump’s precipitous decision (Whim? Reaction? Hardly seems appropriate to term this something so considered as a decision) is typical of what we have come to expect of him. It follows a private phone call with the dictator of Turkey. Trump was persuaded by the last conversation he had with someone who sounded convincing. He made a snap call. No one in the military (including the regional command), in the Pentagon, in the State Department, or among our allies where consulted or even informed up front. Mostly, they found out when the rest of us did.
Trump demonstrates a complete lack of understanding as to what this means in the region or to the Kurds. When criticized far and wide, he replied with a tweet that screamed mental health breakdown (“… my unmatched wisdom…. I would crush Turkey….”). A tweet worthy of Dr. Strangelove.
This fiasco is great news for the dictators of Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and ISIS. It is awful for the rest of the region, for the Kurds, for our allies, and for the increasingly tattered US reputation. At this point, who could consider the US a world leader? Who, besides Putin, might consider us a reliable ally? Even Lindsey Graham, who usually serves as Trump’s loyal house pet, is angered by this one. Not that we have any assurances Graham will actually try to do anything about it.
Reasonable people of all persuasions are angry and saddened by all this. Just to be clear, let’s call out what makes this so very wrong and damaging:
- There are moral and political ramifications to selling out a loyal ally in a critical fight. We have let down individual fighters and supporters too often in the past (Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq…) but it is a rare thing to casually throw a whole people overboard.
- ISIS is down but not out. We just denied ourselves one of our best resources to keep them down and out. The Turkish military, all bravado aside, will not take up that slack in our capacity.
- This strengthens all the wrong players and weakens all the wrong players. Our own national interest is hurt on several fronts by this.
- Making judgments like this on instinct and personal relationships is, to put it clearly, stupid. There are processes and resources to make our best efforts in difficult times. Making this little more than a whim or a coin toss is criminal. It is such an abuse of power and process that one might even call it impeachable conduct.
- People tied into a commitment to fight alongside us, with assurances we would stand with them. Our word is largely meaningless now. Not a new wearing of that badge of shame for this Administration.
Even if, for some odd reason, you still think Trump is just swell, it is inconceivable that anyone could think this process or this outcome serves any worthy purpose. The house we call the United States of America is on fire and burning down faster than anyone might have guessed. It is my deep disappointment that more senior civilian professionals and military officers are not standing up and saying publicly, “No more. Not on my watch.”
Where are our true leaders? Where is principle within the Republican party?
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