The Normandy test

Defenders of President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from a portion of Syria, thereby enabling Turkey to have at the Kurds, make a number of arguments in favor of that move. I don’t find any of them persuasive, but some are better than others.

The worst argument I know of comes from Trump himself. He points out that the Kurds didn’t help us at Normandy.

He’s right, they didn’t. Neither did the Jews of what is now Israel. Like the Kurds, they were stateless. But that doesn’t mean they are not our allies today, or that we should leave them vulnerable to attack by their enemies.

The Saudis weren’t at Normandy, either. Yet, we support them in Yemen. Moreover, we are about to deploy nearly 2,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia, bringing the total to around 3,000.

The Germans were present in force at Normandy. They mowed down the invading American troops. Yet, for decades we stationed large numbers of troops — many, many more than the 1,000 or so we are pulling back in Syria — to protect West Germany from the Soviet Union. (The Soviets didn’t help us at Normandy, but they were instrumental in winning World War II).

In short, I can’t think of a less relevant test for determining U.S. troop deployment than whether a country, or a people, helped us at Normandy.

Trump’s foreign policy seems to be based on two goals. He wants to maximize U.S. influence in the world but also wants to bring American troops home. This is a sensible goal, but very difficult to pull off.

Accomplishing it will sometimes require the use of foreign fighters to take on our enemies. In the long term, this will require a certain degree of loyalty to those who help us fight.

The war against ISIS in Syria is a textbook example of this “proxy” approach. The Kurds did nearly all the deadly fighting. We supported them. ISIS was defeated, at least for the time being.

In speeches, Trump touts this victory as a major foreign policy success. I think it’s one of his few to date.

Therefore, the lead role of the Kurds in defeating ISIS more than compensates for their absence from Normandy eight decades ago.

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