Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Search of a Blunder

I just don't see the "blunder" of the Turkish Imbroglio that so many pundits claim Trump made.

I have long been aware that Trump wanted our troops out of Syria. Clearly the military and our foreign policy establishment have been dragging their feet and pushing back. It isn't fair to say there was no planning done if the commander-in-chief was being thwarted by the bureaucracies.

Nor is it fair to say we should have come to a diplomatic deal first. What do you think we've been doing?

I've noted repeatedly our efforts to come to a deal with the Turks over the border region and the Kurds there. Those efforts failed. And the Turks seem to have made it clear to us that they were coming. Our fewer than 100 troops weren't going to deter them.

And as much as I dislike Erdogan and like the Kurds who fought at our side, America has no interest in fighting our NATO ally Turkey--as shaky of an ally it is--over the Kurds.

Just how does our reputation for standing by allies get bolstered by turning against a formal treaty ally to favor a co-belligerent of convenience?

Remember, the Kurds didn't do us a favor fighting ISIL. We had common interests in defeating ISIL. That common fight did not obligate us to then fight for Kurdish independence.

And while we have interests in supporting friends in eastern Syria, I don't want our military presence to drag on without a discussion of means and ends. That kind of autopilot path after the completion of the initial mission leads to a Beirut barracks bombing (Lebanon) or a "Blackhawk Down" Battle of Mogadishu (Somalia).

Look, I didn't categorically claim that Obama's decision in 2011 to pull our troops out of Iraq would be a disaster. I disagreed strongly with the decision. But all I would claim is that it lessened the chance of a good outcome and increased the chance of a bad outcome.

We got the bad outcome in 2014 that took great effort to reverse--including contributing to the rise of ISIL in Syria that we are still dealing with.

Let's wait and see how we work the problem of reacting to a really bad situation that the Turks forced on us. The struggle for eastern Syria will continue. I don't assume the outcome will be bad. I don't assume it will be good.

And even if it is bad, it is probably just another form of bad that would happen given the conflicting goals of the many actors involved in the Syria multi-war and our limited interests in the face of competing actors with greater interests. Face it, without an objective like overthrowing Assad, we've been spinning a lot of plates in Syria and trying to keep them all from crashing down.

I've been trying out different names for the crisis. I think I'll stick with Turkish Imbroglio.