US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria is drawing fire from Democrats, media and some in his own party as well. He doesn’t seem to care, insisting on his 2016 campaign promise to end the endless wars.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump batted away every attempt at criticism – calling out the media for faking footage from Syria; describing the Kurdish militias that worked with US troops against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) as “no angels”; and demanding one good reason why the US should be involved in a centuries-long dispute between Syrians, Kurds and Turks when they could work that out themselves. None was forthcoming.
He even chided the US military-industrial complex that wants to “fight forever,” while making sure to note that he authorized a $2 trillion spending spree to rebuild the “depleted” US military. When reporters brought up the outspoken opposition by some Senate Republicans, Trump shot back that they ought to do their jobs, and he would do his. This was not a president worried about getting impeached, but someone confident in his position after 1,000 days in office.
While 2016 may seem like a long time ago, Candidate Trump did run on the platform of ending endless wars and entangling alliances. His daring to question the sacred cow of NATO, or the US presence in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq caused apoplexies across Washington.
After becoming president – and facing a coordinated effort from every quarter to block, sabotage and “resist” his agenda – he chose to go along with the military and political establishment. So the US did not withdraw from Afghanistan, and sent more troops to Iraq and Syria to fight IS. Trump even launched strikes against the Syrian government on two occasions – both prompted by alleged “chemical attacks” – in 2017 and 2018. Having hired neocon warmongers, he embraced their agenda for regime change in Cuba and Venezuela.
If this was done to appease his domestic critics, it obviously did not work. Neocons and establishment Republicans continued to denounce him and ally with the Democrats seeking Trump’s impeachment. So at some point recently – perhaps when he fired the hawkish adviser John Bolton? – Trump appears to have decided he might as well do what he wanted all along.
Declaring IS defeated, he ordered the pullout of US troops from northern Syria, setting in motion a chain of events that have transformed the situation in the region practically overnight, while his critics could only wail and gnash their teeth in impotent rage.
Trump has always had the uncanny ability to force his foes to defend the indefensible – see the curious case of Democrats and open borders, to name just one example. Now that talent has been leveraged in the area where US presidents have the most influence, and where his critics appear the weakest: foreign policy.
Turns out that getting the US out of Syria was easy, so long as Trump let others do all the hard work. Mainstream media said Trump gave Turkey the “green light” to invade Syria, when he clearly didn’t. They gleefully took up the cause of the “betrayed Kurds” until they got caught faking footage of the Turkish invasion. When it emerged that the “Turkish” troops involved were the very same “moderate rebels” they cheered on, back during the Obama administration – now denounced as “thugs and pirates” – the contortions they had to put themselves through were a sight to behold.
What if Barack Obama had called out the military-industrial complex, told off politicians who wanted to fight “endless wars,” or declared that American soldiers should not be injured or killed in centuries-old sectarian conflicts? It is no stretch to say that he would have been applauded by the same people that now vilify Trump.
Yet Obama didn’t do any of those things, even though he had the “hope and change” mandate. Instead, he allowed himself to be seduced by the promises of glory coming from his ambitious advisers. The result was the rise of IS, as Washington sponsored jihadists in Syria; the destruction of Libya and its transformation into a slave-market anarchy; the coup in Ukraine and the war in Donbass. The “geniuses” behind these fiascos are now shrieking that Trump’s cleanup of their mess is somehow hurting America!
During the 2016 campaign, some of his supporters jokingly referred to Trump as their “God-Emperor,” a science fiction reference that spawned a thousand memes. Yet here he is, single-handedly dismantling the American Empire because he believes it runs counter to the notion of the American Republic its founders had envisioned over two centuries ago.
Meanwhile, his critics are once again forced to defend the indefensible, and the only “argument” they have left is that all of this is somehow “helping Russia.” Trump is either lucky beyond all probability, or truly a “stable genius,” as he once put it himself. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
By Nebojsa Malic