The last two weeks have been challenging for me from a foreign relations perspective. I’ve wrestled with questions of morality, interventionism, the President’s motives, our role as the strongest nation in the world, dissension within the GOP, false media coverage, real media coverage, and how it will all influence the 2020 election. It has been very difficult to reconcile all of the information that I know… and I’m just a journalist. Imagine how the President, military leaders, and members in Congress feel. Then again, I sometimes think I’ve done more research on the topic than many of them.
The topic that keeps me up at night is Syria and Turkey. I’ve written several pieces about it, but none of them have properly framed how we, as patriotic Americans, should feel. This article isn’t going to do the job, either, because I’m no longer focused on how others feel. I’ve had lengthy conversations with people I trust (and a couple I don’t) about how they’re reacting to our military withdrawal from the border area in Syria. I’ve had long Twitter chats on the subject with several people, including a former Congressman, about the decision and the implications surrounding it.
It may be anecdotal, but I was pleased to hear most conservatives aren’t too worried about it. The general consensus was loosely negative about the move but nowhere near the point they would oppose the President (and thereby aid his Democratic opponents) over the decision. Among those who share this perspective was one semi-insider (working for a NGO now but still with connections) who believes the Turkish government has some sort of dirt on the President. She thought it had to do with the EU. I had a similar thought at one point, looking to their intelligence on Saudi Arabia as a more likely source of dirt. I dismissed the notion because if it’s true, we’ll never know.
In other words, I’ve run the gamut on perspectives about this whole debacle.
Tonight for the first time, I’m going to find sleep with something other than politics and foreign affairs on my mind. I’ve reconciled it all, and surprisingly it came from a single realization that has been there the whole time but was pushed back on my mental priority list on the subject because it’s just too simple. As I came to realize tonight, the simplicity of the realization is what eventually won me over in my internal conflict.
Neither the United States nor the President is responsible for Turkey’s actions. We did not pressure them to carry out what they clearly intended to do for a long time. We didn’t encourage it. We didn’t even give them the green light, as many are contending (including me for a while). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the decision to invade Syria, partner with violent Syrian militants, and engage in a war that is currently breaking out in eastern Syria. Erdogan and Erdogan alone is to blame for this.
I can hear the opposition now. “But, our troops there were holding them back!” If this is true (it is), then how can we justify an indefinite presence in the area? Because that’s what those who ask this question are implying. We were the finger in the hole of the Turkish border dam. Were we supposed to keep that finger there for another year? Two? Ten? Forever?
I can hear others in the opposition as well. “But, we promised the Kurds we’d negotiate peace!” This is also true, and we tried. But Erdogan was bent on fighting the Syrian Kurds who he believes are fueling the Turkish Kurds. I have no idea if this is true or not, but one thing is certain. We were not going to be able to convince him otherwise. Like I said, we tried.
There are also complaints that we abandoned the people who “helped us defeat ISIS.” This is an incorrect statement. We helped them fight for their own lands by supplying them with weapons, training, and air support. We went in with a mission. We weren’t there helping them against Turkey, the Syrian government, or the Syrian rebel militia before. It wasn’t until they engaged ISIS that we decided to give them support.
That mission is done. It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep ISIS at bay, which is the best argument against us leaving the border area. But President Trump made it clear from the beginning that Turkey accepted responsibility for them. If they lied or are ineffective at keeping current ISIS prisoners detained and preventing the terrorist group from reforming, then that’s on Turkey. Again, Erdogan will deserve the blame for that.
Now, if someone wants to argue that Turkey isn’t really an ally, I’ll buy that argument. But logistically, it’s a mess to disengage with them. They’re part of NATO so we have a responsibility to defend them just as they have a responsibility to defend us. Meanwhile, we have two very important military bases in Turkey and around 50 tactical nuclear weapons. I would LOVE to disengage from Turkey completely, but that’s not something that could be done in a statement from the White House or a Tweet from the President. This mess in Syria may turn out to go a long way towards forcing us to disengage, and I’d be happier if we did.
Would I have pulled our troops back? No. As much as I hate intervening in the affairs of sovereign nations, the math is on the side of keeping them there. Allegedly 50-100 troops were all it took to have enough of a presence that Turkey was unwilling to attack. I believe if I were Commander-in-Chief, I could have found 50-100 volunteers in the military to take on the role of nanny and human shields in eastern Syria. Therefore, I would not have pulled them out.
But I’m not the President. He did pull them back. Whatever his motivations for doing so, it’s his call. I can disagree with the move, but I will not blame him for the actions of the Turks. Erdogan made the choice to invade, not President Trump.
Agree or disagree with the President on the Middle East, it’s his call and he made it. Either way, it makes no sense to blame him for the actions of a tyrannical dictator. If you don’t like the invasion of Syria, blame the invaders.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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