Trump’s Syria Trifecta: A Win for Putin, a Loss for the Kurds and Lots of Uncertainty for Our Allies

In taking responsibility with the Kurds for defeating ISIS in Syria, we relieved Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Assad of a huge burden, enabling them to crush the regime’s domestic rivals. And what’s really crazy is that — we did it for free!We didn’t even demand autonomy for our Syrian Kurdish allies or power-sharing with moderate Sunni Syrian rebels.

I feel terrible for the Kurds, but at least America might get the last laugh on Putin. Trump let Putin win Syria — and the indefinite task of propping up al-Assad’s genocidal regime and managing Iran’s attempts to use Syria as a platform to attack Israel. What’s second prize?

But even if you argue that walking away from the Kurds in Syria was the right coldblooded, strategic thing to do, how a president does things matters. By just pulling out of Syria without advance planning or coordination with our allies — and dumping the Syrian Kurds after they sacrificed 11,000 men and women in the fight against ISIS — we sent a message to every U.S. ally: “You’d better start making plans to take care of yourselves, because if Russia, China or Iran decides to come after you or bully you, America does not have your back — unless you’ve paid cash in advance.”

Watch out. Over time, that will not make for a more stable world or a cheaper U.S. foreign policy.

What makes America unique as a global power is that we have allies who share our interests and values — and amplify our power at a low cost to us — while Russia and China have only client states, like Syria, and customers.

“When we suddenly withdraw our support for an ally in one place — with no warning — we call into question our credibility everywhere,” argued Michael Mandelbaum, author of the book “The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth.”

That is not an argument for sustaining bad wars forever, he added, like Vietnam. But it is an argument for ending them in ways that don’t unnerve your allies: “If the Germans and Japanese conclude that America’s security guarantees are no longer valid, they will each get nuclear weapons — which we don’t want and they don’t want.”

Article URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/22/opinion/trump-syria-turkey.html

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