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Syria: Did Trump Get it Right This Time?

President Trump’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria has been met with little applause from either his supporters or his opponents. Congress has left it to some of Trump’s often most ardent supporters, such as Lindsay Graham, to slam the president’s decision. Senator Graham said,"This is a stain on the honor of the United States," and added, "I think it's disastrous to our own national security." Senator Marco Rubio, a sometimes Trump supporter and sometimes opponent, said the president’s decision to withdraw troops is “a colossal, in my mind, mistake—a grave error that is going to have significant repercussions in the years and months to come.” Democrats have been more restrained, mostly criticizing the lack of coordination of the president’s decision with others in our government or with our allies, and signing onto a letter from a bipartisan group of Senate Armed Services Committee members, which called the president’s decision “a premature and costly mistake that not only threatens the safety and security of the United States but also emboldens ISIS, (Syrian leader) Bashar al Assad, Iran and Russia.”

In contrast to the muted response from Democratic politicians (and even some approbation from Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee), liberal news media such as CNN and the New York Times have been harshly critical of the president’s decision, while FOX News has been mostly silent. 

Criticisms of the president’s decision have been that it has been applauded by Vladimir Putin (“Donald is right!”), that it is contrary to what Trump’s advisors, such as National Security Advisor, John Bolton have recommended, that it appears based on an erroneous assumption that ISIS has been defeated, that it allows Iran and Russia unchallenged influence in Syria, and that it walks out on our defense of Syrian Kurds from attacks from Turkey.

In their zeal to find another reason to attack the president, many of his liberal opponents are glossing over the fact that the thought behind his decision is similar to that of Barack Obama, who wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, and who resisted sending troops into Syria, although he finally relented (which John McCain and Lindsay Graham said was “too little, too late”). Ordinarily, advice and pronouncements of John Bolton, a Bush-era Neo-Con hawk, are disregarded or attacked by the liberal media. Many of Trump’s opponents appear to be talking themselves into a hawkish military position just because the president took an opposite tack. 

The truth is that President Trump may have done the right thing but in the wrong way. What is right is that the American policy of supporting anti-Assad rebels, who also fight ISIS, is a misguided policy, especially now that Assad seems firmly in charge. Trying to contain Iran or being a counter-balance to Russia, both Assad allies, by keeping 2000 troops inside Syria, is fruitless as well as misguided. With Iran and Russia as staunch allies, both of whom are fighting ISIS themselves, American troops on the ground aren’t necessary, and they increase the likelihood of an open conflict with these troops from other countries. Likewise, we have no business trying to support Kurdish fighters against Turkey.  

What Trump did wrong, was not listen to or coordinate with his advisors, inform congressional leaders, or discuss at length with the military. He made an arbitrary decision, based on his intuition and his desire to fulfill a campaign promise, probably also to distract from losing the fight over the border wall and the increasingly ominous findings from the Russian investigation. He exhibits the style of an authoritarian dictator who makes decisions on the basis of whims and tantrums. This time, the decision may be correct, even if the method of arriving at it is far from presidential.


Reader Comments (2)

Actually, I think anything Trump does that promotes values of social justice, ethical behavior, honor, or even logic, presents a philosophical conundrum that surely must have been addressed by Shakespeare or Aristotle or some brilliant philosopher. Any time a person, whether a friend, neighbor, a person or power or even fame has done egregious ongoing harm to others (I'm talking about the denigration of a multitude of decent people by Trump and his unscrupulous business behavior) and suddenly that person has a few "come to Jesus" or lucid moments, it's difficult to hop onto the praise train. It requires more character than the offending, "found-Jesus" person has. It requires soul-searching and buck-up forgiveness. I don't know if I personally have it at this point or even if I should have it. I'm not able yet to be as kind or understanding as CNN's Van Jones. Of course, Van Jones is about 30 years younger than I am, so perhaps that's why. He's still hopeful.

December 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

Casey, After re-reading my comment above, I decided I needed to amend it and did so on my blog:

December 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

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