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Syrian boys, right, sit on a pickup flash victory signs, as they pass next of a U.S. vehicle troops, left, on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria, Saturday, March 31, 2018. President Donald Trump’s unscripted public declaration this week about pulling out of Syria “very soon” while at odds with his own policy are unnerving for the Kurds in this context. U.S. troops first deployed in the area about 16 months ago, after Turkish-backed Syrian forces advanced on areas near Manbij, in a race for control of territories as IS militants collapsed. The deployment prevented repeated clashes between the two rival forces. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
A close friend of mine visited the D-Day Museum (now called the National WW II Museum) in New Orleans a few years ago. My friend has an encyclopedic knowledge of the D-Day landing. He’s the guy who can tell you what time each company level US unit’s landing craft dropped ramp on the beach. [A conversation with Mike might go like this: George Company, 116th Infantry? They went in on Omaha-Dog White. Ramp down at 0611. Right in front of an MG34 manned by the 352 Füsilierbataillon. They lost 2 officers and 37 men. The company won two Distinguished Service Crosses. Most ever by any infantry company on one day.*] In short, he’s not a guy you want to f*** with because he can tell you where to go to get the data. He went through the museum and compiled a dozen or so pages of notes on errors in the exhibits He sent the director a lengthy email pointing out the errors and how they were a direct result of sloppiness, a lack of professionalism, and, quite possibly, the uncertain parentage of the director. He never heard back. Mike shared the email with a group of former Army guys (and a token Marine who is a West Point grad) I’m a part of and expressed his disappointment that the director had not answered his missive. Another guy on the list, a now-retired multi-starred general, responded, “I agree, Mike, whenever someone I don’t know sends me an email telling me I’m either an idiot or a liar, I get right back to them.”
The point being, there are ways of convincing people who have common interests with you that they are in error and not all of them are going to be successful. Calling names and questioning the integrity and intelligence of those people has to be among the worst–particularly when it isn’t being done to deliberately troll the people you’re trying to convince.
Let me take that as a point of departure in considering today’s post by former RedState Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson titled If You Could Stop Humping Trump’s Leg For Just a Minute, You Could See He Screwed the Pooch on This
Of course, the situation is more complicated than that and the President is not playing multi-dimensional chess. He’s just acting like a dumbass in this instance and now doubling down on stupid.
The PKK Kurds who are our battlefield allies in Northern Syria are, frankly, more loyal to us these past few years than the Turks have been, even without being part of NATO. By allowing Turkey in to kill the Kurds, despite the President’s lies now pretending his original statements never happened, the President has pissed off a terrorist organization that had actually been working with us. He’s going to create an Al Qaeda out of the Kurds like what happened with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
But wait…it gets better.
One of the things this group has been doing is ruthlessly fighting ISIS with us. In fact, they’ve been our ISIS jailers, or at least they were. They aren’t now. They’ve left the area or been killed. Turkey does not care about ISIS because when Turkey talks about wiping out the terrorists, they’re talking about the PKK, not ISIS.
So now ISIS can regroup. The PKK is making an alliance with Syria and Russia. Meanwhile, the Turks are firing at the United States’s positions in Northern Syria and a lot of Christians are going to die in the process. Yay for religious liberty.
The President of the United States, for reasons no one can really understand, decided he wanted out and wanted out immediately. Perhaps someone should have told him the withdrawal method is no more effective on the battlefield than it is in preventing pregnancy.
Our Syrian strategy has been deeply, deeply flawed. That is not the President’s fault. That is Barack Obama’s fault. But instead of bringing some rational order to the process, the President has brought even more chaos with this chaotic withdrawal. It is a chaos that will eventually find its way back to us.
All the President’s leg humpers are cheering this on as the President being bold, taking a stand, and bringing our troops home. The troops are still there, the President’s stand is more a half-assed leg raise by a Syrian shaped fire hydrant, and it is as bold as five year old off brand cayenne pepper. It is dumbassery with no logical explanation that defied the advice of all his senior advisers save for some idiot on Fox willing to get a lot of Americans killed in the name of ending endless wars.
This President got elected with a lot of people saying not to worry, he was surrounded by good people who would give him good advice. Most of those people fled the place and the President isn’t even willing to listen to the advice of the B,C, and D-listers around him now — let alone the few remaining Allstars. It’s going to be really hard to continue supporting a man who hasn’t ended endless wars, but endlessly inflamed war-torn areas with public policy dreamed up by a bunch of people banging on keyboards between the rebounds from humping his legs.
I don’t find this line of argument to particularly persuasive and a lot of the underlying assumptions are either counterfactual or highly arguable.
Before going further, read these by our own Mike Ford (note: no two infantrymen will agree on everything, if nothing else out sheer orneriness, but Mike is about 93% correct):
Syria Withdrawal Part I: The Right Decision
Syria Withdrawal Part II: Protecting (Our) Kurds
Syrian Withdrawal Part III: The Current Battlespace
Syria Withdrawal Part IV: Conclusion-Way Ahead
What the argument for staying in Syria presupposes is that there was actually some US interest in our presence there in the first place. There wasn’t. There isn’t. Our entire presence there is part and parcel of the Obama administration’s sucking up to the Iranians and helping them create client states from Iraq and Syria. It put us in the position of allying ourselves with Iranian militias, with the Iranian IRGC, with Bashar Assad, with al Qaeda offshoots, and with the PKK (which is a US designated terrorist group) and its YPG subsidiary to allegedly fight ISIS. Indeed, it has placed us in the position on not only being allies of a terrorist group, the PKK, but of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which opposes the YPG and has an economic boycott of the area under than group’s control.
Let’s stop here for a moment and try to answer why we were fighting ISIS? I’ve struggled with this for a several years and the only answer I can come up with is that they are Iraqis and Syrians with subpar personal hygiene and a terrible tailor. The fact that ISIS was opposed by Iran and by al-Qaeda should have been our first hint that maybe we should be buying popcorn. ISIS is a millenialist movement that was doomed from the beginning to burn itself out because these movements always do. In the meantime it was wreaking havoc with our enemies. There was no reason for us to collaborate with a terrorist organization that targets a NATO ally. For all the wailing about the loss of US prestige from us abandoning an “ally”–again, our only ally in this mess is Turkey who a lot of conservatives seem to want war declared upon by the same administration they were criticizing only last year for damaging NATO–by kicking PKK to the curb, that loss of prestige is dwarfed by the PR debacle we got from creating a set of circumstances that permitted the Turks and the Russians to honestly crank out reports about the US arming terrorists (both PKK and Syrian rebels, most of which are al-Qaeda affiliated). Just how, exactly, do we defend having US troops and the American flag present to honor members of a designated foreign terrorist organization who were killed by our NATO allies:
You can’t. There is literally no national interest of the United States that permits this much less requires it.
Bill Roggio, of Long War Journal, who has been immersed in the politics of the wars in Iraq and Syria for nearly two decades describes it this way.
@realDonaldTrump’s withdrawal from Syria is a big foreign policy mistake. The US is selling out yet another ally. But this was a mistake that predated Trump. US chose a poor ally. YPG is not the “poor Kurds” that the media makes it out to be. This is the PKK’s Syrian branch.
As I said above, I differ with many in that I think our foreign policy suffered much more by allying with terrorist groups than it will by us finally coming to our senses. But read on.
If you insist on pretending the YPG is not the PKK, here are photos of US Special Forces at a “YPG” funeral in 2017. Note the PKK and Oculan flags flying at the funeral, with US armored vehicles flying Old Glory in the background.
This is disgraceful. The PKK is a specially designated terrorist organization. The PKK is responsible for killing tens of thousands of Turks during a bloody civil war.
The US, under the advice and direction of @brett_mcgurk, chose the “YPG” (PKK) as its ally to fight the Islamic State. There was no consideration of Turkey’s very real national security interests and concerns.
Let me be perfectly clear: I’m no fan of Erdogan. He has and continues to support terrorist groups, and is using HTS to battle the PKK right now. But if Erdogan was not president and the Turkish military was in power, it likely would doing exactly what he is doing.
Ironically, @brett_mcgurk also whitewashed the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, the Iranian backed Shia terror groups, as it battled ISIS inside Iraq. The PMF is now killing Iraqis who are protesting. We shouldn’t be shocked about what is happening there.
When the US, under the Obama admin, pulled support from the Iraqi Kurds (the real good Kurds), as the PMF rolled over them in Kirkuk and elsewhere, where was the media and “experts” outrage. @brett_mcgurk, who has been vocal about the current betrayal. was silent on that.
What is happening in Syria and Iraq today did not happen in a vacuum. These problems stem from a decade of bad foreign policy decisions. After withdrawing from Iraq as the Syrian civil war raged, the Obama admin wanted to outsource the war against ISIS…
So the Obama admin outsourced the war & chose terrible partners (PKK in Syria, PMF in Iraq). The US chose terror groups to fight terror groups (Iraq is a bit more complicated as the Iraqi military was part of fight, but Iraqi govt backed PMF & even made it a legitimate unit).
The @realDonaldTrump admin is not absolved. It has owned this problem for almost 3 years. Like the Obama admin, it made no effort to reform the YPG, make it drop its radical Marxist ideology, and convince the Turkish gov’t that it was important it to fight ISIS.
Instead, the US military and policy makers that continued to back the YPG/PKK kept kicking this can of problems down the road, without realizing the plug could be pulled at any moment. It was no secret Trump wanted to leave Syria. Why was no effort made to to mitigate this?
Context to how we got here is key. There is little context in today’s news reports on this topic. Most of it is vapid Trump-bashing. The YPG is treated as innocent Kurds when it is in fact the PKK. This problem was years in the making and did not appear out of the ether.
Why does the Trump administration own this now? Because for the past three years it let the ‘smart’ people, the people that Erick refers to the so-called A-listers that fetishize process and value continuity in foreign policy more than US national interests. Last December, Trump announced that we were leaving Syria, so it is hardly like this was an impulsive decision. It is one in which some of his advisers disagreed (I’m guessing Bolton and Mattis) but the root word of adviser is advise, not dictate. If Trump is going to own the bad decisions foisted upon him by really, really smart people then he should be allowed the freedom of making his own decision that contradict what has been nearly a decade of really bad decisions on Syria and Iraq.
The reasons that President Trump wanted out are amazingly simple. There is no US strategic interest advanced by placing US forces in Syria. There is no US national interest advanced by openly allying ourselves with terrorist groups. Absent an open war with a NATO ally, or absent having the ignominious images of US forces in the custody of Turkish forces flashed around the world (of course, we got over the images of US Navy ships and sailors being rounded up by the Iranians, so we’d live through it), the Turks were never, ever going to allow a PKK/YPG autonomous area to exist in Syria. No US national security is advanced by having conflicting alliances with the Kurdistan Regional Government and the PKK/YPG as eventually one of those partners was going to have to be dropped. No possible strategic end-state does not require the US to pull troops out of Syria and, consequently, the only argument here is over timing and those against withdrawing now must make a case why withdrawing next year or five or ten years gains us advantages over leaving now.
Now people who were, quite rightly, adamantly opposed to our involvement in trying to topple Bashar Assad’s regime and to the introduction of US forces into Syria while Obama was in office now going full metal Chicken Little at the thought that we’re leaving it. Just for five minutes, I wish a lot of people would stop seeing everything through the lens of President Trump and, more specifically, through that lens that declares anyone who agrees with President Trump on any subject to have done so simply because they are in thrall to Trump the man. But I’m not holding my breath.
*The D-Day info about G/116 Infantry is nearly all made up for narrative purposes.
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