October 15, 2019
America’s elite special operators are breaking their wall of silence like never before, ‘betrayed’ by Trump’s decision to pull back in Syria and erase years of hard work. But are they too late
They are called “silent warriors” for a reason. By training and tradition, America’s special operators — Green Berets, SEALs, and the like — are supposed to get in, get out, do their work in the shadows, under the radar, underwater, and most certainly out of the public eye.
But in the past week, a remarkably large number of the U.S. military’s most-elite members have broken their code of silence like never before in the ISIS conflict. Their message: President Donald Trump’s decision to pull them out of northern Syria so suddenly was a mistake.
It’s extraordinary. Active and retired special operators of all ranks, from Syria to Washington, have talked to reporters to voice their humiliation. The president, they say, has forced them to turn tail (at least in the north) and leave behind their Syria Kurdish partners and families to face a much greater oncoming force from Turkey, and in essence surrender a unique and un-replicable foothold in the Middle East it has taken five years to establish. Even Joseph Votel, formerly the top general at U.S. Special Operations Command and until recently in charge of the Syria mission, is lashing out publicly, arguing the turnaround is wrong from top to bottom. The word they are using most about their commander in chief: betrayal.
To these warriors, it’s a strategic failure that benefits adversaries like Iran, Russia, ISIS, and yes, Turkey. It’s a tactical failure that gives up hard-won territory and influence in the heart of the Middle East. It’s a moral failure that betrays everything Americans – and American service members – are supposed to stand for.