Alan Zendell, October 15, 2019
When Vice President Mike Pence announced that he’d been instructed by President Trump to lead a delegation to Turkey, he was quick to assure Americans that Trump did not give Turkish President Erdoğan a “green light” to invade Syria. It doesn’t matter whether that’s true, though personally, given the administration’s relationship with truth, I doubt it. Either Pence lied or Trump was completely hoodwinked by Erdoğan. I can’t decide which is worse.
Trump has fumbled his interactions with other world leaders since he took office. Embarrassing as those flubs were, his base could still cheer his arrogant bravado, because no obvious short-term harm resulted. But this time is different. Either by intent or as a result of ignoring all his advisers and trusting his completely uninformed gut feeling, by pulling back the special forces troops supporting the Kurds, Trump created a bloodbath.
Pence repeated Trump’s demand for a ceasefire, but no one believes that will happen before Turkey achieves its objective. What Pence failed to mention is that while he was announcing his as yet unscheduled trip, Kurds were being slaughtered by Turkish artillery and their towns were being destroyed. He also failed to mention that Bashir al Assad’s forces are already occupying Kurd positions, and Kurdish leaders have already accepted the protection of Assad and Russia. And as for the ISIS fighters who’d been captured by our Kurdish allies, they’re now free to start over again. Are we supposed to believe that Trump can just press reset and reverse all that?
Only the blindest partisan can now fail to accept that Trump’s style of diplomacy is both incompetent and dangerous to American interests. And if the allegations currently being heard by the House Intelligence Committee are backed up by corroborating evidence, it may also be unconstitutional if not illegal. It’s clear in all of these actions that Trump’s motivation was entirely political, intended to help his re-election campaign. Many in Defense and State have feared that Trump would resort to inciting conflict because he thought it would unite the electorate behind him. More likely it will be seen by uncommitted voters as tantamount to a war crime.
Trump’s comments about the Kurds made it crystal clear that he doesn’t consider the Kurdish forces that did almost all the fighting against ISIS in Syria as either allies or human beings with families and towns to protect. He angrily yelled that the Kurds had been well-paid and supplied for their trouble. In other words, in Trump’s eyes our relationship with the Kurds who died for us was purely transactional. They were paid mercenaries, plain and simple. But talk to anyone who ever worked with the Kurds, and you get an entirely different story.
The Kurds found themselves caught between the murderous Assad, continual threats by Erdoğan, and the ISIS Caliphate. All they ever wanted was to be left alone to live in peace, and they were willing to fight to achieve that no matter what the odds. And for Americans who tend to view all of Islam monolithically, it’s important to note that the Kurds practice Islam as it was intended. They don’t preach Jihad, they don’t abuse their women, and they reject the Shia dictatorship of Iran.
They didn’t fight alongside American forces for money. They fought to protect their homes and way of life, and the payments they received were made to enable them to defend themselves. We were incredibly fortunate to discover an ally like the Kurds in that part of the world. It’s likely that we would not have defeated the Caliphate without filling hundreds or thousands of body bags with American casualties, if the Kurds hadn’t done it for us. And now, Trump has shown his true colors. The Kurds are Muslims, and they’re more brown than white. Trump has said repeatedly that he likes allies who look like they’re from Norway, despite (or possibly because of) the fact that Norway has been turning into a fascist, racist country.
This is the first time I’ve heard people nervously wondering if their president is about to trigger World War 3 since the Cuban Missile Crisis. He has turned a laughably incompetent administration into an unstable, extremely dangerous crew who have lost the confidence of our allies and reinforced the conviction among our adversaries like Vladimir Putin that Trump will continue to be an easy mark for them. The sooner he is neutralized, the better off our country will be.