President Donald Trump’s seemingly impetuous decision to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from northern Syria has once again underscored his limited knowledge and understanding of this nation’s foreign policy and his unwillingness to listen to those with far greater expertise in foreign policy and its implications.
Officials granted anonymity to describe internal deliberations described Trump as “doubling down” and “undeterred” despite vocal pushback from congressional Republicans and Democrats alike.
Trump has reportedly tried to persuade advisers and lawmakers that the United States is not to blame for Turkey’s military offensive into northern Syria which has targeted Kurdish fighters who have aided the U.S. fight against the Islamic State.
The escalating crisis in northern Syria has prompted further criticism from foreign policy heavyweights in Trump’s own party who argue that the president’s strategies abroad send a concerning and disturbing message to allies and endanger regional partners.
Former Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Washington Post, “I’ve always looked at the approach the administration takes as very transactional and very short-term in nature. It’s almost seeking headlines for the very next day but not really thinking through the longer-term impact on our country.”
Corker told The Washington Post he warned against the decision to withdraw support for Kurdish forces, calling it a “blight on our character.” He said, too, that Trump’s decision would only embolden Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has given no indication that he would halt the offensive that began last Wednesday despite the threat of sanctions from the U.S. Congress and international condemnation.
Sunday morning’s political talk shows were dominated by fallout from Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from North Syria, which critics said gave Erdogan, who is allied with Russia, a green light to attack American-allied Kurdish militias, risking a resurgence of the so-called Islamic State and a slaughter of the Kurds.
“The Kurds found out on Twitter for goodness sakes,” Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran, said on CBS. “We have left them to the wolves, and the message this is sending to our allies around the world, I think, is really going to be bad.”
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on NBC, “I can think of nothing more disgusting in all the years I’ve been in Congress than what this president is allowing to happen with the Kurds. They have been our loyal and faithful allies for so many years and after this, who again would trust the United States to be an ally? This is going to make people flee from us.”
“We may want a war over; we may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way out of Iraq, but the ‘enemy gets the vote,’ we say in the military,” former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on NBC. “And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”
Trump’s success in the business world does not equate to expertise in the nuances of foreign policy. As a nation, we would be better off if he would listen to the advice of those who have that expertise.