There are respectable arguments in favor of the pullback of U.S. troops in northeastern Syria. I don’t find them persuasive, but they are serious.
Unfortunately, President Trump persists in making ludicrous arguments. One of them, the fact that the Kurds didn’t help us with the Normandy invasion, I discussed here.
I hoped that this argument was a throwaway — a one-off. No such luck.
Now, Trump is claiming that the PKK, which forms part of the fighting force the Turks are attacking, is more of a terrorist threat than ISIS in many ways. This is true if you are Turkish. But it’s preposterous if you are American, especially if your slogan is “America first.”
The PKK poses no threat to the U.S. ISIS poses a serious one. It is responsible for attacks on America and its allies. That’s why we sent troops to attack ISIS, an effort in which we were aided substantially by local forces including those associated with the PKK.
ISIS remains a serious threat even though its caliphate in Iraq and Syria has been destroyed. ISIS fighters and adherents still have the ability to launch terrorist attacks against Americans and American interests. Moreover, it’s far from clear that ISIS will be unable to regain some of its lost territory, especially given the cessation of the fight against it in Syria caused by Trump’s pullback.
The pullback has resulted not only in that cessation, but also in the escape of ISIS fighters from captivity in the region. Trump claims that the Kurds are releasing these prisoners “for effect” — that is, to create pressure on him to intervene militarily.
This claim appears to be unsupported by credible evidence. Given the speed with which our forces are pulling back, I’m not sure how the U.S. would know about the circumstances of ISIS prisoner escapes. Maybe Turkey is feeding Trump this line.
Trump has already shrugged off concern about ISIS prisoners escaping, noting that the escaped terrorists will be coming to Europe, not the U.S. Thus, it’s clear to all that letting these prisoners escape would not influence Trump’s policy, the alleged motive here. He doesn’t care much if they escape.
Jay Nordlinger may be onto something when he tweets:
Remember this: When you betray a person or a group, you have to slam that person, or that group. You have to say all manner of evil against them. That way, you can live with your betrayal, and sell it to others. This is very, very human — age-old. “They had it comin’.”
In Trump’s case, the key is probably selling his policies to others, rather than to himself. Trump likely sold himself for all time the minute he made the decision to pull back.