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The cynical rationale behind Trump’s decision to pull out of northern Syria

Tel Abyad
REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Smoke rises above the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, as seen from Akcakale, Turkey, on Sunday.

Even in the midst of an impeachment inquiry, President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria, enabling a Turkish offensive against Kurdish fighters, has prompted howls of protest — including from prominent Republicans who otherwise can barely bring themselves to utter a critical word.

The critics have a point. There are good reasons to wring one’s hands, but there is also a cogent “America First” argument to be made in favor of withdrawal — even if declaring policy with a surprise tweet isn’t the way to go about it. There is a third way to look at it, as well: The cynic’s view of how America often conducts foreign policy.

So overall, which viewpoint has the most merit? Let’s go with the cynical one. 

The hand-wringers’ list of worries is well documented, and it was summed up by conservative columnist Bret Stephens in the New York Times. The first concern is the moral cost of abandoning an ally: Allowing Turkey to invade leaves the Kurds, who did America’s dirty work fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to face a vastly superior force alone.

But the move also damages Washington’s reputation as an ally; gives the Islamic State a chance to regroup; encourages Iran and Russia (which, a New York Times investigation shows, is bombing hospitals in Syria); and it gives Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a chance to strengthen his hand domestically. Also: It may increase the possibility of a conflict between Iran and Israel. 

Evangelical Christian leaders, who normally are big Trump backers, also are upset. Pat Robertson declared that Trump risks “losing the mandate of heaven” by abandoning the Kurds. Wow.

(For an explanation of the long-running conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish groups, check out this Council on Foreign Relations primer.) 

A lot of the criticism is accurate, and it is likely to be reflected in an overwhelming, bipartisan effort in Congress to impose sanctions on Turkey for its military action. It comes at a time of political peril for Trump. Even if the Lindsey Grahams of this world won’t criticize him over the Ukraine scandal, this will fuel their private doubts about Trump’s temperament and leadership.

Trump doesn’t appear to care. Pulling back in Syria is popular with the part of his base that loves the “America First” message, and it allows Trump to portray himself as someone willing to make tough decisions.

U.S. policy on Syria has been a muddle throughout the eight-year civil war. The United States either didn’t have much of a chance to influence events there, or didn’t care enough to try. In addition to hunting Islamic State figures, U.S. forces have been making a difference around the margins — balancing the Iranians and Russians and keeping the Turks and Kurds apart — not pushing events toward a solution. Without a solution, it’s easy to see American troops doing much the same thing in Syria for a long time to come — precisely the kind of deployment Trump wants to end. You could cast Trump’s pullback as what happens when a superpower gets tired. It reduces commitments. People get hurt. This time, it’s the Kurds.

But if America is rethinking its role, it would best move slowly and only after making sure everyone knew where Washington’s new boundaries were. That didn’t happen.

Plus, if the president truly believes that “going into the Middle East is one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our country,” why, exactly, are more troops heading to the region? The Pentagon announced Friday it is sending additional forces to Saudi Arabia, bringing to 3,000 the number dispatched since an attack on Saudi oil facilities last month. Overall, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said 14,000 U.S. troops had been added to the region since May, according to Politico.

Policy toward both Syria and Saudi Arabia is in part about confronting Iran. But let’s give the cynics their due. The United States cares more about Saudi Arabia, which has a lot of oil, than Syria, which has much less. That calculation is even more true for Trump. The Saudis know how to flatter him, and — despite the objections of Congress — they’ve made him complicit in their humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. In turn, Trump has shielded them from fallout in the death and dismemberment of dissident Jamal Khashoggi. 

Everyone knows this isn’t the first time the United States encouraged the Kurds, and then stood by and watched them die. It happened at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, as well. So why did they trust the Americans this time? Because, says Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Kurds have little choice: “The United States is powerful and can afford to be duplicitous, whereas the Kurds are weak and are thus forced to be credulous.”

Trump’s decision could — probably will — harm U.S. interests. On Sunday, the Kurds cut a deal with the Syrian government, which is propped up by Iran and Russia.

This may also prove to be one more example of the kind of calculation the United States often makes. And what might most distinguish it is not the withdrawal itself, but the typically shambolic way a president impressed by his own “great and unmatched wisdom” went about it. 

Comments (44)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 10/14/2019 - 09:56 am.

    No cynical rational needed. We should have never gotten involved at the thousands of troops on the ground level in the first place. Starting with Bush and thinking that nation building was going to work, no chance! Then we went to Obama and Arab Spring, put our head in the sand, shuffle troops in the region and try to say it is ok, didn’t work. Thank goodness we have a President that understands 18 years in that region is more than enough by a long shot.

    I thought the Lefties were for getting out of the Mid East. Funny when our President does something you want, he’s still wrong. This war has been a cluster *-“# since it started, costing the USA trillions, but more importantly killing and maiming our solders….. Bring them home but have a quick strike force in the region to be used if needed along with NATO troops. The ineptitude of NATO is another discussion.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2019 - 10:43 am.

      Whooda thunk that our best friends in the region would be the country that still is supporting the most conservative forms of Islam throughout the world and provided funding for the 9/11 attack. Fast forward a few years and we are sending troops to SA to protect them from blowback from their foriegn adventure.

      What was in that glowing orb….

      Why, good old-fashioned cash!

      “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them,” he bragged at a 2015 campaign rally. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them?”

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/14/2019 - 11:00 am.

      In a single paragraph you rip Obama for removing troops (shuffling) and praise Trump for removing troops.

      Whatever happened to the good old, conservative, listening to the generals on the ground?

      Oh, I forgot, Trump is smarter than the generals.

      Rationalization is the key to mental health.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/14/2019 - 11:12 am.

      Does the moral issue of not abandoning allies (again!) not play into things?

      • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 10/16/2019 - 01:49 pm.

        Yes, it’s a moral issue RB which is important, but perhaps an even more powerful argument against this bone-head move will be it’s detrimental effect, on a WORLDWIDE BASIS of the United States as a credible and reliable partner or ally.

        If I’m an American general or diplomat trying to persuade foreigners of an alliance that benefits our US national interest, and I say to them “you can count on us”, I think they are probably going to immediately say ‘Really?, like the Kurds counted on you??” We saw what you did to them”.

        So this has damaging effects far beyond Syria and the middle east, it lowers our international reputation and standing, all over the world.

        The only cure for that is to vote our current impulsive president out of office, so that that US general or diplomat or special forces man can answer those concerns about what was done to the Kurds by saying – “well, that was under President Trump, and our new president is far, far different from him. Under our new president, we honor and value our alliances”.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/17/2019 - 01:57 pm.

          “Trust” and “keeping one’s word” are concepts that are unimportant to Trumpism. Remember also that the President is a first-class grifter of many years standing who has no more concept of reciprocal loyalty than he has of a unified field theory.

    • Submitted by Joel Stegner on 10/14/2019 - 01:46 pm.

      Never should have done it is no excuse. Our problems in the Middle East all result from Republican Presidential decisions ag the behest of American oil companies. Trump doesn’t understand. “ you broke it, you bought it.” His entire responsibility is about not taking responsibility for his actions.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/14/2019 - 10:23 am.

    Mr. Smith’s 1930s isolationism is interesting, but sadly out of touch, though I tend to agree that we should never have gotten involved there – militarily – in the first place. Diplomatically, however, we’ve mostly proved ourselves inept – a trait that Mr. Trump admirably demonstrates. Tribal and theocratic thinking has dominated Middle Eastern politics and societies for centuries, and obviously continues to do so. Trump is no more understanding of the region than previous presidents, whether Mr. Smith approves of their Middle East policies or not.

    I make no claims at all to a perfect memory, but with that in mind, I nonetheless seem to recall that one of Osama Bin Laden’s primary stated rationales for the 9/11/01 attack that has come to symbolize the onset of “the war on terror” was the presence of American forces in Saudi Arabia – his homeland – and a significant majority of the suicidal 9/11 attackers were Saudi. Sending more troops there to protect Saudi / American oil seems more like provocation for further attacks on Americans rather than some faux-diplomatic or realpolitik concern about our “ally” Saudi Arabia. Anyone who wants to know the importance of Middle Eastern oil to American corporate culture and politics need look no farther than that.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 10/14/2019 - 10:48 am.

      Ray, in 2019, we are not dependent on foreign oil as we used to be. They need their oil fields up and running (to finance their country) way more than USA needs their oil. If we can’t militarily or diplomatically make a difference in the region, as you state, why are we there? We’ve spent trillions and ruined thousands of USA solders lives over the past 18 years. Time to get out…
      No cynical rational needed… What we’ve done hasn’t worked, why in the world would we do more of it?

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/14/2019 - 12:34 pm.

        “What we’ve done hasn’t worked, why in the world would we do more of it?”

        Indeed, that is one of the questions in the piece. If we are pulling out of Syria, why are we sending additional forces to Saudi Arabia? If the goal is to pull out of the Middle East, we should be pulling out everywhere, yes?

        The larger point is not so much about overall policy as how we go about it. Trump seems uninterested in considering the long term consequences of such actions, instead enjoying the short term adulation of his supporters. Describing this as “America first” is a misnomer. His policy is “Trump first.”

      • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 10/16/2019 - 02:21 pm.

        I agree with your general arguments Joe, certainly the decision to invade Iraq was a huge, huge blunder, costing trillions of dollars not to mention all the death and destruction it caused.

        It also opened the door to the formation of ISIS as a real threat, since after Hussein was removed from power, there was a vacuum there that radical Islam could fill.

        However, in the case of Syria, the number of US soldiers in northern Syria was minimal (1,000 or so), and their presence kept Turkey from invading and going after the Kurds, since they didn’t want to get into a confrontation with the US over Turkish forces possibly killing American soldiers. Same with Russian/Syrian military forces.

        So I think given the relatively small size of our presence there, and the great effectiveness and loyalty of the Kurds in being the real heart of the fight against defeating ISIS, and the danger that ISIS poses to the whole region, to Europe and yes to us as a terror threat, I think the smart move would have been to be faithful to a good ally, and keep those US special forces troops in place in Northern Syria to continue to prevent the reemergence of ISIS as a real threat to the region, and to keep a faithful ally protected and on our side.

        It certainly makes no sense to send forces to Saudi Arabia while claiming “we’re had it with the middle east” as the rationale for pulling that minimal US troop presence out of Northern Syria.

        I think the fact that president Trump has business interests in Turkey (Trump Towers Istanbul) is a problem in that he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t at least subconsciously want to keep the leader of Turkey happy by going along with his requests, rather than thinking exclusively of US interests when dealing with Turkey.

        In a 2015 interview with Steve Bannon, at the time the executive chair of Breitbart News, then-candidate Trump acknowledged, “I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

        This is a problem that I think needs to be considered with future presidents, and that the constitution takes only partly into account via the emoluments clause – if a president has business interests and significant money tied up in a foreign country, how can that not be a risk in influencing whether that president pursues only the best interests of the United States, if doing so might potentially damage his or her personal business interests?

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2019 - 10:33 am.

    There is an old joke about the British in the Middle East:

    “Q: Is it better to be an enemy or an ally of the British ?

    A: An enemy, because if you are an ally, you are surely going to be sold, but if you are an enemy, you will be bought.”

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/14/2019 - 11:09 am.

    Why does almost every global policy decision that Trump makes always align with V Putin’s desires?

    Fortunately the congressional R rats are desperate to jump off the good ship Trump as it slowly sinks to the bottom. The Kurd’s are providing them the cover to do this.

    Quid Pro Quo

    “Something for something”

    Trump gets continued business opportunities in Erdogan’s Turkey

    Erdogan gets the green light to extinguish our Kurdish allies.

    Even Lindsay Graham may sign on to that impeachment count…

  5. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/14/2019 - 11:28 am.

    We have officially entered bizarro world here. Lefties are warhawks, worried about ditching allies, and demanding Trump stiff a NATO ally (Turkey).

    Wew lads.

    This situation is more complex than I think any of us understand. I’ve read several articles that infer the Kurds are not the friends we think they are. Indeed, it seems they’ve quickly made an alliance with the Russians and Syrians. Given that, removing US troops from war zones is another goal Trump elicited during his campaign and he’s been pretty consistent on making good his promises.

    Lastly, I have read several lefties that are very confused about the Saudi kingdom, and it’s connection to 9-11 and al Qaeda.

    It’s true that most of the 9-11 team that pulled off the attack were Saudi nationals, but the Saudi government in no way took part in financing or assisting them. In fact, the Saudis are deadly foes of the Muslim sect that Bin Laden et. al. belong to.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2019 - 02:57 pm.

      Of course you must know that Saudi Arabia has successfully fought revealing any of the redacted 911 report that involved them, and has stonewalled every possible investigation in their involvement in 911.
      So much effort in obfuscation–surely they are innocent.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/14/2019 - 02:58 pm.

      Just the facts mam, as Joe Friday used to ask:

      1. We had less than 1000 soldiers assisting the Kurds who played a significant role in defeating ISIS. Our presence there kept Ergodan in check: hardy left wing war mongerers demanding conflict and insured the captivity of 1000s of ISIS soldiers and showed good faith with the people who helped defeat ISIS.

      2. Trump undid this after a phone call with Ergodan without consulting State or Defense.

      3. Bin Laden was on our side back in the day of the Soviets vs. the Afghans (Oh, and we were not with the Russian back then). Bin Laden and his Sunni followers went the other way when we put our soldiers on the ground in Saudi Arabia, as Bin Laden stated:

      “for the Muslim Saudi monarchy to invite non-Muslim American troops to fight against Muslim Iraqi soldiers was a serious violation of Islamic law”

      4. If we want to avoid more stupid wars in the Mideast not using our soldiers as mercenaries for the Saudi royal family would be a good place to start.

      5. The Saudi Royal family is 15,000 strong. They have a lot of money. If you think none of that found its’ way into Bin Laden’s hands, I have a shuttered casino in Atlantic City to sell you…

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2019 - 03:17 pm.

      …. Saudis are deadly foes of the Muslim sect that Bin Laden et. al. belong to…..

      Not so much…Bin laden was a Wahhabi that opposed the growing westernization of Saudi Arabia and its citizens–a not exactly unpopular view among the conservatives in SA.

    • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 10/14/2019 - 03:19 pm.

      Regarding Saudi Arabia and the connection to Wahhabism. This also addresses funding general. although not 9/11 in particular.

      The below articles also touch upon that, but the discussions wander into other areas outside of the SA government and Wahhabism.

      All that said, Saudi Arabia is also in the ME, and deeply embroiled in its troubles. We’re sending more troops there, too.

      As far as the Kurds making new friends, we put them in that position with our sudden dumping of them. Would you prefer that they just sing “God Bless America” as they are overrun by Turkish armor?

      It’s not that “lefties” have become warmongers. It’s about doing things correctly. I’m all for getting out of the ME, but that means a plan, an actual plan, that not only takes care of those that helped us, but also our own energy needs that will require a buffer from the hiccups of oil being priced on a global market.

      Instead, what we have is Trump getting a call from the Turks, and he does as they say. That’s not a plan, and it’s a bad action.

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 10/15/2019 - 09:11 am.

      “We have officially entered bizarro world here. Lefties are warhawks, worried about ditching allies, and demanding Trump stiff a NATO ally (Turkey).”

      Almost as bizarro as Republicans accepting their great leader’s worship of Putin. You know, the guy who used to be in the Soviet Union’s KGB when it was our most feared enemy. And now is the leader of Russia which is still a country whose policies are still aimed at upsetting the stability of Europe and the Mideast and weakening our influence.

      And as bizarro as the line evidently being peddled by your obviously very reliable sources that produced your “several articles.” Even though the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, that byzantine dictatorship had absolutely no connection to them. So it’s perfectly logical to leave the Kurds hanging because we have got to stop meddling in the Middle East and at the same time send more troops to Saudi Arabia.

      The skill with which the crackpot right twists things is astounding. We’re “warhawks” now because we react to the additional misery and killing this idiot generates. Video of frightened children and mutilated bodies has an effect on some people. That it doesn’t on you isn’t really that surprising.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/15/2019 - 09:40 pm.

      Last check, FDR a democrat got us into WWII, we support our friends and our obligations and our quest for freedom for all. Please don’t try to patronize folks (right or left) that support their country and military, with their honor, their wealth and their blood.

    • Submitted by ian wade on 10/16/2019 - 03:45 pm.

      Nah. Bizarro World is where a political party that once idolized Reagan turns its back on the nations own intelligence community and instead takes the word of despots who regularly assassinate their political rivals, starve and imprison their own citizens.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/17/2019 - 01:51 pm.

      Bizarro World is a term insufficient to describe a world in which the President of the United States sends a letter to another leader telling that leader “Don’t be a tough guy,” and ending it with “I will call you later.”

      Bizarro World does not begin to describe a world in which a belligerent power agreeing to a five-day cease fire to allow the troops it was fighting to leave is regarded as some kind of diplomatic achievement.

      Bizarro World is an inadequate term for a country in which free citizens will try to outdo each other in proclaiming their support for the government that could do those things.

  6. Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/14/2019 - 12:31 pm.

    The issue isn’t whether we should be there – its that we are and are screwing over the people who we allied with. Trump is green-lighting genocide and doing ISIS a huge favor.

    Not surprised that a guy who failed in every business venture he was ever involved with can’t do basic foreign policy.

  7. Submitted by Benjamin Riggs on 10/14/2019 - 01:41 pm.

    The cynical explanation is simple: Our president has business in Turkey, is chummy with the Turkish dictator, and wants to keep it that way. If only the framers of the constitution had included a clause specifically to prevent this sort of situation…

  8. Submitted by James Robins on 10/14/2019 - 01:53 pm.

    This is an excellent analysis, and helpful to even those of us who follow the situation fairly closely.

    Personally, I’m of a more cynical persuasion. I don’t see a benefit to any of the major players in the region who all are not well served by added tensions and the real possibility of a major war – which would be harmful to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Israel – and (obviously) the Kurds.

    The only certain beneficiary here is Russia – due to the vacuum left by erratic U.S. actions, and the evident blow to the NATO alliance in general. Now, a cynic would certainly have some additional theories about how this all adds up.

  9. Submitted by joe smith on 10/14/2019 - 02:43 pm.

    Nothing cynical about it, Trump is wrong to keep troops in the region. The rational is Saudi Arabia is safe and they will be close by. Don’t care, I would like to see all troops out.

    • Submitted by Mark Voorhees on 10/14/2019 - 08:17 pm.

      It would be to pull troops ok if he didn’t pull troops at the request of Turkey. And having troops in Saudi Arabia doesn’t make any sense at all. He sent weaponry and now sending troops. Just doesn’t make any rational sense at all.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/15/2019 - 08:32 am.

      “Don’t care, I would like to see all troops out.”

      Me too and likely everyone else short of the suppliers of military hardware agree that should be the ultimate goal for every time we are using our troops to accomplish something on foreign soil.

      The question here is the one of accomplishment. It seems the troops on the ground are universally saying:

      “We’re almost there, we’re ramping down, we’re stabilizing our allies who will be left behind”

      And Trump does not listen or understand their position, the one closest to the consequences, or even the position of leadership in Defense and State, who we will remember are “the best people”.

      Instead, a phone conversation with a dictator who Trump is beholden to sets the policy.

      And the Trumpian folks can see nothing wrong with that.

      Time to open your eyes and move to safety. As we learned yesterday:

      “John Bolton was so alarmed by Rudy Giuliani’s back-channel activities in Ukraine that he described President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up,””

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/14/2019 - 05:14 pm.

    What this incident has taught us is that Turkey should have never been a member of NATO. Now we have democrats apparently disappointed that we’re not at war with them.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/15/2019 - 09:14 am.

      “Now we have democrats apparently disappointed that we’re not at war with them.”

      I’m disappointed that the President yelled “RETREAT” in a tweet with no warning to our soldiers who are now being shot at as they run for cover in their retreat.

      And you should be disappointed too, or at least empathetic, because the Trumpian hordes are in the early stage of their retreat from this unraveling, unstable President.

      Start practicing your new screed:

      “I stand firmly with President Pence”

  11. Submitted by joe smith on 10/14/2019 - 06:39 pm.

    Well folks it looks like Turkey couldn’t handle the tariff and penalties that the USA and Mnuchin threw at Erdogan today. Turkey called the White House and want a truce with the Kurds. Geez fighting a war with sanctions rather than bullets, who knew.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2019 - 09:14 am.

      So sanctions can cripple an economy in less than 24 hours? Wow, that Trump magic is really something!

      BTW, what have the Turks agreed to do? No, they can’t revive the civilians that they have managed to kill, but will they let they let the 160,000 people they have displaced return home safely? Will they capture the Daesh fighters and family members who have escaped? Have they agreed to pull back their troops from Syrian territory?

      Or has Trump’s authoritarian buddy just agreed to stop the fighting for now? Has he even agreed to that? A few minutes ago, the BBC was reporting that Erdogan says Turkey’s operations will continue “objectives have been achieved.” Has something happened in the last 20 minutes? Please, let us know the details of this triumph!

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/15/2019 - 11:45 am.

      Making stuff up is fake news….

  12. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 10/15/2019 - 08:28 am.

    Regime Change has been in the works in Syria since 1994 at least, ala The Council on Foreign Relations. Why? Pipelines from Qatar, to feed European demand. Syria is the gateway.

    That is related to why we perpetrated Regime Change in Ukraine, to prevent pipelines to Europe from Russia. Of course we relied in part on neo-nazis in Ukraine, and al Qaida assorted militiant jihadis in Syria (aside from the Kurds) in that effort. But who really is keeping track? The war profiteers at least.

    “The mandate of heaven” indeed. At least there is something Dems and Repubs can agree outright on, that all of this is our moral duty. War, war and more war. Meanwhile dems nor repubs can seem to be the least bit morally disturbed by an economics so dependent on making war, in foreign relations, against nature, against working people here in America.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 10/15/2019 - 10:08 am.

      You know, one might save a lot of time just repeating “a pox on both houses, only I know the truth” if that is the only argument one is capable of making.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 10/15/2019 - 11:23 am.

        That quote in your response is you quoting yourself, not my words. I would never say “only I know the truth.” Otherwise your argument does not sound like vibrant democracy as much as advocating for subservience to a centralized narrative, major media derived.

        I take what information is available, and I discern for myself the relative truth of it. If I find it credible, after repeated attempts to cross-reference, then I will offer it up in a statement like the above, and hope someone takes it seriously enough to do their own research. Neither my arguments nor anyone who takes them seriously is a serious threat to the dominance of either major Party.

        Otherwise too, in my original comment, I offer several arguments – not just one, and you didn’t actually engage any of them, but merely dismissed all of it.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/15/2019 - 11:58 am.

      Ahaa, I see your angle…. New World order and all that


      Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal. The true aim of the US and Israel backed ISIS is to give the pretext for bombing Assad’s vital grain silos and oil refineries to cripple the economy in preparation for a “Ghaddafi-”style elimination of Russia and China and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad.

      In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.

      (end quote)

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 10/15/2019 - 01:14 pm.

        I wouldn’t call that anything but a more accurate and nuanced take on the actual power dynamics, rather than the grossly simplified obligations to democratic morality we are spoon-fed by corporate media and both political Parties.

        It is a lot like the difference between the perception management that is American Energy Independence and Net-Exporter, when the reality is we pump maybe thirteen million of barrels of oil domestically, but consume closer to 20 million, a 35% shortfall. We control the petro-dollar, and most of our foreign policy is petro-dollar management – despite the fact that most Americans have no idea what the petro-dollar is or what it means – while our news makes pains to assure that NO foreign policy is about oil, instead it is all about “leading the world”, assorted appeals to moral uprightness and duty.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/17/2019 - 08:59 am.

        So you’re telling us (quote from your link):

        “Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood.”

        I think you give our government way more credit than they deserve for being able to do anything “sinisterly secret” over a long period of time…

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/16/2019 - 09:59 am.

      You raise a valid point that suggests why many Americans might agree at least with Trump’s sentiments about withdrawing from Syria. Americans are increasingly weary of carrying the load assumed since WWII about maintaining the balance of power, a role previously developed and maintained by the British. You brief sketch illustrate how hard it is to distinguish that policy from the “Great Game” played by imperialist-colonialist powers before WWI.

      It would take a great statesperson indeed to figure out how to end this “Game” in which the people of all countries end up being pawns in pointless wars over resources and influence. Trump understands how to appeal to the growing antipathy of Americans about this role just as he knows how to cynically manipulate it. As the article points out, he certainly has no interest in ending it.

  13. Submitted by Steve Roth on 10/17/2019 - 10:54 am.

    “Pat Robertson declared that Trump risks “losing the mandate of heaven””

    And writers for The Onion just throw up their hands…they can’t top this stuff.

  14. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2019 - 09:22 am.

    There is no foreign policy in any of this, cynical or otherwise. Only personal policy. It’s about money and ego. What the Kurds lose, Trump gains. Not anyone else. He gains money and he keeps his protection with Putin. What’s conflicting him right now is that not everything he does for Putin goes unnoticed from his “American” allies. It probably really does upset him that his “American” politician buddies are criticizing him because a complete narcissist cannot handle the idea that he’s not perfect. He might also recognize that, in his quest to being an all-powerful dictator, he might need allies that are not Russian. At least nominally.

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