The Best Explanation for Pulling Out of Syria I Have Found

October 21, 2019
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There has been much debate about the pros and cons of President Trump's decisions to pull troops out of Syria. The commentary below is the best explanation I have found for why it is the right move.

The author is a fellow named Matthew Dooley. I do not know him, or know of him; and there is no link to a post. So I have pasted it in its entirety (not too long). A map has been also circulated with his commentary, but I couldn't reproduce it. But the message comes through clearly anyway.

It covers all the bases: the Kurds; honor; the nature of war in that region; and most importantly, American interests.

Here is the bottom line:

"This is s not about Trump, nor is it about isolationism or even libertarian non-interventionist values. It’s about understanding the nature of war in the modern age prior to committing to it, and why it’s important to have the following elements in place prior to engaging in expeditionary foreign policy:
-A clear understanding of National Interest that can be easily explained to the American people
-A clear objective: How do we know when we are done?
-National Will: Do we have the commitment to see this through (Formal Declarations of War by Congress help with that)
We don’t have any of those key elements in our national conscience yet for a greater war in Syria, which is why we are leaving"

Here is the full essay. Everybody's opinion counts! Tell me what you think.
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I’ve listened to the last few days of breathless arguments over the President’s recent decision to vacate portions of the Syrian border. The consequences of Turkey laying into a specific group of Kurds along their border is also brutal to watch. I’ve read the back and forth between many people I respect on both sides of this issue. Some of them believe we should hold fast to our Kurdish allies. Others I equally respect believe it was high time we got out of a regional conflict in which we should have never been committed. Both sides make valid points worth considering.
There is also an even greater amount of grandstanding, hyperbole and conjecture out there spewing from the vacuous, turd fonts of legions of uninformed people. These folks have zero knowledge of the history of the region or the complexities involved in who we choose to call “friends” and why. You need to ignore them.

Most of those people posting their CNN and MSNBC shorthand B.S. also have no idea what they themselves would do differently in the region. They only know pulling our troops out of Syria is bad and leaving our troops in Syria is bad, and America is bad, and “Orange man bad” and oil and “they just can’t even…” These are the same people who said nothing when Iraq squashed the PKK Kurds in northern Iraq two years ago. These are also the same people who would scream howls of indignation equally as loud, if our President sent tens of thousands more Soldiers to augment the 1500 Americans already on the ground in Syria to make the current situation break the other way. It’s a no win political ping pong decision for these folks. Isn’t this a fun game where you can never be right?
Let me be clear: those people…and their opinions…I do not respect. I do not respect these people, because they’ve substituted the deep research and reasoned arguments required to understand this issue in exchange for sound bite politics. That level of superficial opinion may be perfectly adequate for impressing old folks you work out next to at the rec center or young folks with their faces buried in their lattes and Twitter feeds, but it won’t work on me.

Let me be more direct: Now that ISIS is on the ropes and manageable by regional powers, you need to tell me what critical U.S. national interest lies in maintaining a presence in Syria at the cost of American lives and decades more investment in another unresolvable tribal scrum.

The clearest argument I hear is one of “honor.” Proponents claim we need to stay in Syria to honor our promises to Kurdish allies. This leads to a series of follow-on questions no one seams to be able to answer:

-What promise exactly did we make to the Kurds?
-Which Kurds did we make these promises to?
-Did we really tell them we would act as virtual surety and protector for the rest of their existence? If so, what does such a promise mean?
I’ll tell you what such a promise to the Kurds would mean, right here…right now. Let’s tally the butcher's bill, shall we:

1. Point one: Not all Kurds are the same. Grab your playbook. You’re going to need to create a tracker so you can understand all the differences between Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds and Turkish Kurds and their key decision makers and beliefs. I don’t know Syrian Kurds, or Turkish Kurds. Can you tell the difference between KPP Kurds and YPG Kurds and PKK Kurds and so on? Like many of my friends with whom I’ve served in that region of the Middle East, I only know Iraqi Kurds. I can say I trusted them to fight Al-Qaeda and other Islamist radicals as hard as I would fight them. I can’t speak to the religion, political worthiness or infrangibility of Syrian Kurds. The fact that the Kurds overall are not of one uniform religion, one uniform political ideology, and one uniform set of economic principals speak to a lot of why they don’t have their own country.

2. Where’s the honor debt and where does it lie, really? Let me tell you- we don’t owe the Kurds anything. Yup. There, I said it. While it is true the Kurds in Syria (who aren’t our same Kurdish allies in Iraq) teamed with us fighting ISIS, the Kurds in Syria fought ISIS not out of any obligation to us, but for their own survival. They are lucky we showed up. We gave them weapons, ammunition, training, close air support and some logistics. If you want to throw the Iraqi Kurds into this mix, consider the fact we already gave them a bail out in 2003. Without U.S. support, the Kurds in Iraq would still be fighting Saddam. America helped them all slam ISIS back into the dirt. You’re welcome. If they want an independent Kurdistan, that’s a different matter and that’s on them.

3. Understand the neighborhood before you start policing it and building 7-Elevens. Syria is a five way free-for-all that has been a problem since before the Arabs discovered they were sitting on oil, and those problems exist independent of whether the U.S. is there or not. The Western world wants the oil, but that isn’t even the problem. Before there was this recent war, much of the region’s problems were caused by the misalignment of artificial borders drawn on a post-colonial transition map. These lines were drawn during World War I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and its immediate aftermath to divide up control over the region between France, England…and later, Russia. This plan was called the “Sykes-Picot Agreement.” That agreement and its follow on corollaries set the conditions for this problem. Why? Because, the victors of WWI in the outside world drew borders through tribes instead of around them, created borders where there shouldn’t be, promised things to tribes they couldn’t deliver, and made another 200 years of war in the Middle East inevitable. If you want to fight a another 20 year-war to create an independent Kurdistan, fine. However, do it the right way; get a U.N. resolution, a Congressional declaration of war, and prepare to fight Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia to get it done. See the attached picture for clarity on how many nations have to be convinced, by force of arms, why they should give up land for an independent Kurdistan. That lighter tan area is land where Kurds of all flavors occupy. Oh yeah....and 25M dead, minimum.

4. This is about more than one ally. Turkey has a terrorism problem with certain Kurdish elements and it is real. My Kurdish friends in Iraq don’t have a problem with Turks. I don’t want to see my allies suffer, but I also don’t want my friends blowing up bus stations in Ankara or Istanbul. So, if you are a Kurdish friend of mine, here’s the deal: don’t murder Turks with car bombs, unless you want your border village shelled by Turkish artillery. Turks are my NATO allies. I’m supposed to be friends with them too. I don’t like the heavy handedness of Turkish internal politics either, but don’t make me have to choose. You and the Turks settle your own regional problems. Leave us out of it.

5. This is not about Trump, nor is it about isolationism or even libertarian non-interventionist values. It’s about understanding the nature of war in the modern age prior to committing to it, and why it’s important to have the following elements in place prior to engaging in expeditionary foreign policy:

-A clear understanding of National Interest that can be easily explained to the American people
-A clear objective: How do we know when we are done?
-National Will: Do we have the commitment to see this through (Formal Declarations of War by Congress help with that)

We don’t have any of those key elements in our national conscience yet for a greater war in Syria, which is why we are leaving
H/T Matthew Dooley