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President Trump is initiating plans to withdraw from Syria and it is about time America cut it losses and end the great folly that was our intervention in the first place. The American playbook in the Middle East is unique from the playbook used during the Cold War, and decades of intervention in the Middle East have proven this playbook tremendously inferior to the centuries old playbook America had deviated from. Under the centuries old playbook, when a nation intervenes in a foreign area, they either conquer or create vassals.
The events in the Pacific following the Second World War exemplify this school of foreign policy. The United States was creating friendly nations in the pacific. Both the Republic of Korea and eventually former enemy Japan effectively became vassals for the military and diplomatic interests of the United States in the region. In the Korean War, the United States defended its loyal allies, and in turn, can still to this day call South Korea an ally. The Korean War is a crowning example of successful military intervention, as we know for certain the fate of communist regime had on the people they ruled. It would be foolish to argue the fate of the South Koreans would have been better off without America.
The failures of this playbook in our history arise for a few different reasons. In Vietnam, the South Vietnamese would have been a vassal for decades to come, much like a South Korea. But America, mainly Democrats in Congress, turned their backs on the South Vietnamese and allowed them to fall to the North Vietnamese. Feudal systems work when the vassals receive protection from outside chaos, whether they be vikings or communists. South Vietnam was denied this further protection.
Similarly America failed to defend Cuba from communists. A slightly different example of this playbook failing comes from Iran. In the early fifties, American and Britain ousted would-be dictator Mossedeq and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. If the vassals fail at ruling, the fault lies not with the Lord Paramount. We’ve seen this multiples times in South Korea. However, it is far more difficult for the feudal relationship to maintain past a regime change when the regime goes from being the anti-Islamic Pahlavis to the Shiite Ayatollahs. These events inspired drastic changes in US foreign intervention, for numerous reasons.
Feudalism is often looked down upon, but understand that the governance arises out of the need for protection against constant threat of invasion. In the early nineteenth century, Napoleon establish the Confederacy of the Rhine instead of outright ruling the Germans. Romania allied with Hitler for protection against the Soviets. Poland allied with Britain for protection against the Germans. Spain allied with France for protection against the British. The list is endless in human history.
Contrast this feudal foreign policy with the Middle East. In Afghanistan, America employed terrorists to fight the Soviets in a drawn out war. Decades later, we find ourselves fighting the terrorist infrastructure we created. In Iraq, we backed Saddam Hussein and helped prolong the Iran-Iraq War. This was far more related to taking revenge for the Iranian Hostage Crisis, then the phenomenon I am describing. Nonetheless, we found ourselves warring with Saddam, not once, but twice. If you are noticing a pattern, its because there is one. Yesterday’s friends become tomorrow’s enemies. Previously, the reverse was true with exceptions such as Russia and China. Japan, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany were all once enemies of America and now friends.
This Middle Eastern pattern worsened under the Obama administration. Instead of picking the lesser of two evils which previous administrations fell into the cycle of doing, President Obama blatantly supported the greater of two evils in Libya and Syria. The Americans performed air strikes to topple the Ghadaffi regime in Libya while it was clear that this was a jihadist revolution, not a “democratic” one. Who could then be surprised that the same terrorist propped up by the Obama administration attacked an American consulate and killed four Americans. This was also after Egypt elected a terrorist President, only to then be overthrown by Egypt’s military oligarchy.
The Arab Spring was a thin veil that Obama did not see past or did and could not care less about. In Syria, America armed terrorists through partners like Qatar, UAE, and the Saudis. The media and administration acted as though the Islamic State came out of nowhere, when they were the main rebel group in Syria. In second place was the rebrandings of Al-Qaeda such as the al-Nursa. With these two organizations poised to capitalize on the power vacuum, America knowingly sought regime change in Syria.
Here we can see that the United State had no real endgame in Syria. Instead, the United States mainly wanted to oppose Russia. Russia uses the old playbook. They act to defend Assad, their vassal, from the terrorist who are a threat comparable to vikings. With the Liberation of Aleppo, it was clear, the SAA would win the war. Their consolidation strategy had worked, and they could slowly liberate the rest of the countryside from ISIS and ISIS-lite. Meanwhile the US formed a coalition to fight ISIS, the enemy once preferred over Assad. This campaign took considerable time and money, and was no less devastating to civilians than the Liberation of Aleppo. In the meantime, America lost its grip on Iraq allowing the Iranians to turn Iraq into their vassal.
Despite its promise, the Trump administration did little to contrast with the Obama administration in Syria. In truth, he largely takes credit for defeating the Islamic state that largely belongs to Syria, Russia, and even Iran. Nonetheless, the Trump administration had a chance to salvage a victory among all this folly: an independent Kurdistan. Trump had the opportunity to help establish a nation that would be not only a vassal to America but an ally of Israel at that. It meant Turkey would no longer be our ally, but Turkey has its own apocalyptic ambitions in the Middle East. Kurdistan presented an opportunity to have a stable foothold in the Middle East. Creating this vassal would have broken the cycle of yesterday’s friends being tomorrow’s enemies. Instead the United States made no effort towards Kurdish independence. In fact, the United States allowed Turkey to terrorize the Kurds, hardly rebuffing them. In contrast, Syria wanted fealty for protection, a wise trade on their part.
Trump’s withdrawal from Syria drew criticism for leaving the Kurds behind, abandoning them to the Islamic Turks and their terrorists proxies. However, if the Trump administration was not going to create a vassal, why stay in Syria? Russia and Syria can handle the rest of ISIS in the region. The United States went into Syria without a coherent strategy and as a result, the United States has nothing to gain from a prolonged stay.
Trump’s failure was not pushing the Kurdish independence, a salvageable victory for the future. Instead the United States spent billions cleaning up the mess it helped propagate.
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