The events of the past few days have been so scandalous that there is not a single newscast in the world that has not included it in its headlines. Those events are related to President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from the northeastern border area of Syria − less than 2,000 troops, but they were vital for defense against Islamic State forces, and their collaborators in this fight were the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurdish militia. That last group, sustained by the local Kurdish population, risked their lives with great determination and courage in order to eject the macabre Islamic State group that had established its authority in the zone during their period of overwhelming advances.
The main problem resulting from Trump’s decision, aside from the possibility of Islamic State group cells reemerging, is that the Kurds are suddenly defenseless. It is widely known that Turkey, which shares a border with Syria in this region, considers the Kurds to be bitter enemies. They accuse the Kurds of collaborating with the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey, embodied by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Thus, within hours of Trump announcing the withdrawal, the predictable occurred. Turkish President Recep Erdogan initiated a military assault by air and land with the goal being, in his own words, to establish a secure corridor in that region in order to repatriate 2 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees who were sheltering in Turkey.
The principal fear in this regional upheaval is that the massive attack against the Kurds will become genocide. During the past three days, it is estimated that at least 60,000 people have fled in fear of their lives to other parts of Syria ahead of the Turkish advance.
There has been widespread condemnation of those operations, including condemnation from the 28 members of the European Union, NATO, the Arab countries, Israel and Australia. It is interesting that, in the U.S., it is not just Democratic opposition that characterizes Trump’s decision as incomprehensible, counterproductive and unusual. Even Republican colleagues of Trump, such as Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney, condemned his order in clear and powerful terms. John R. Allen, a former adviser to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and now president of the Brookings Institution, stated in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN last Wednesday that Trump’s decision made no sense and that the result will be “just chaos.”
So, how has Trump managed this dangerous mess that he created? Basically, with statements that are grandiose, contradictory, grotesque and larded with lies. His early justifications alluded to the U.S. not needing to sacrifice its resources in wars in distant regions, emphasizing his commitment to isolationist policies. Later, when questioned about the mortal danger that the Turkish assault posed for hundreds of thousands of Kurds, his responses were laughable if not pathetic. The first consisted of a warning to Turkey to keep its hands off the Kurds because, “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey.” He even went so far as to say that the U.S. is not particularly obligated to protect the Kurds because they didn’t help the U.S. in the Normandy landing during World War II. This claim leads one to doubt the mental faculties of the man in the White House.
In another lie, Trump claimed that Great Britain was “thrilled” about the decision to withdraw U.S. troops. Great Britain immediately contradicted this assertion, instead stating that its government was “deeply concerned” at the unilateral decision by Trump, who had, without reservation, bypassed the Pentagon and Congress. It is difficult to identify Trump’s motives for opening this new Pandora’s box. Could there be a mysterious agreement with Vladimir Putin and Erdogan? Could it be a distraction from the issue of impeachment and the rest of the accusations hanging over his head? Could there be businesses to protect or launch? Or could it simply be the insanity of a leader drunk with power and subject to flights of fancy and daily moods? We don’t know. Perhaps we will know in the future.