The backstage struggle between the Bush interventionists and the America-firsters who first backed Donald Trump for president just exploded into open warfare, which could sunder the Republican Party.
At issue is Trump’s decision to let the Turkish army enter Northern Syria, to create a corridor between Syrian Kurds and the Turkish Kurds of the PKK, which the U.S. and Turkey regard as a terrorist organization.
“A disaster in the making,” says Lindsey Graham. “To abandon the Kurds” would be a “stain on America’s honor.”
“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney.
“If reports about US retreat in Syria are accurate,” tweeted Marco Rubio, Trump will have “made a grave mistake.”
“The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake,” said ex-U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, “we must always have the backs of our allies. ” But of our NATO ally of almost 70 years, Haley said, “Turkey is not our friend.”
Sen. Mitt Romney called it a “betrayal”:
“The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”
Trump tweeted this defense of his order to U.S. forces not to resist Turkish intervention and the creation of a Turkish corridor in Syria from the eastern bank of the Euphrates to Iraq:
“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. … I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”
When, in December, Trump considered ordering all U.S. troops home from Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in protest.
Behind this decision is Trump’s exasperation at our NATO allies’ refusal to take back for trial their own citizens whom we and the Kurds captured fighting for ISIS.
The U.S. has “pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they … refused,” said a Sunday White House statement. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost. … Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.”
What are the arguments interventionists are using to insist that U.S. forces remain in Syria indefinitely?
If we pull out, says Graham, the Kurds will be forced, for survival, to ally themselves with Bashar Assad.
True, but the Kurds now occupy...