Trump’s 19 December 2019 announcement of his decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria was met with mixed responses from his supporters and opponents alike. Most of the Left (including the media), which praised Obama for his ill-fated and ill-advised pullout from Iraq, has, of course demonized Trump for pulling out of a theater where we were far less involved than that of Iraq. The libertarian and anti-military elements of the Left were generally favorable.
The Right was even more divided than was the Left. My own reaction the moment I heard of Trump’s Syria decision was a huge groan of pain. This was Trump’s Neville Chamberlain moment. This was Trump channeling his best Obama. This withdrawal, though it entailed fewer troops in a country where we had a much smaller footprint,
would have the same disastrous results (or perhaps worse) than did Obama’s Iraqi withdrawal–as shall be demonstrated in this essay.
But first, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am a Trump supporter–especially in light of the way the Left and the media have been resuscitating the corpse of the Russia, Russia hoax, using the MBS/Khashiqji nonsense, and every other gimmick they can think of to bring him down. Indeed, many on the right justify their support of Trump’s Syria mistake on their perceived need to support him 100% no matter what, as the only path for shielding him from the Left’s continuous attacks and the media’s refusal to recognize when Trump does something right–such as providing more jobs for Blacks and other minorities. The media might mention the improving employment numbers, but never will they give credit where credit is due.
Thus, I too plan to vote for Trump again. He has done far more good overall, than harm–and I see nothing on the horizon at this time from either party that would make me want to switch. That being said, I do reserve the right to criticize any president of the United States–even one that I support–when that president makes a mistake. Indeed, criticizing one’s president when they make a serious mistake makes your support for him when he is right (and beleaguered on all sides) much more credible.
Unfortunately, events since Trump’s Syria announcement have proven my initial negative reactions to be the correct ones, as this essay will demonstrate.
REASONS FOR MAINTAINING AN OCCUPATION
Obama’s cutting and running from Libya after helping to destroy its existing government and military establishment, and his withdrawal from Iraq both demonstrate the validity of the three primary reasons why a victorious nation must be willing to maintain a long term occupation in a totally defeated nation long afterwards. These three reasons are spelled out in detail in my book Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror, pp. 444-446. But, briefly, they are this:
- One: To make sure that the bad guys don’t return to power, in one form or another.
- Two: To protect the new government, or entity, from conquest and/or harassment from neighboring or rivaling powers.
- Three: To nudge and guide the new government towards a more equitable, humane, and democratic method of government.
The prime examples of this are the success stories of Germany and Japan after WWII.
Guess what, folks, we are still there! In both countries. Because our predecessors learned from their mistakes in WWI that it is much easier, and cheaper, to maintain a benign occupation of a defeated nation than it is to keep going back to fight the same wars all over again and again every time you turn around.
Somehow, we have unlearned that lesson, and Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq led directly to the coming back into power of the old bad guys, namely the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that we had just deposed, and the remnants of the Abu Mus’ab az-Zarqawi terrorist group that the Saddam regime had hosted and coddled. ISIS was formed in Turkey by the remnants of those two groups, then they became the de facto ruling entities in huge portions of both Iraq and Syria.
Consequences? We had to go back to the Middle East to fight another war involving many of the same bad guys we had kicked out of Iraq. In the meantime, neighboring bad guy Iran has virtually taken over the Iraqi government that we had set up to replace the Saddam regime, and bad guy Turkey not only unleashed ISIS against Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the world, but has itself conducted bloody strikes against the territories of both Iraq and Syria in regions inhabited by our allies the Kurds.
And, it is those same two neighboring bad guy state sponsors of terrorism that most threaten Syria in the aftermath of our pullout from that beleaguered country.
Iran’s goals in Syria are to complete their “Shi’a arch” above Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, giving it a complete belt from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The American presence in eastern Syria was a major roadblock in the way of Iran’s plans. Remove that obstacle and Iran has a straight shot.
During the process of the war, Iran has placed 80,000 troops into Syria (although Iran is now claiming 200,000 in Syria). Most of these troops are militias composed of fighters from no less than 67 different countries, but they are all acting under the orders of, and the leadership of, Iran. The American presence in Syria represented the sole negotiating item we had for being able to eventually get those troops out.
Thus, allowing Iran to not only occupy much of Syria, but to complete its “Shi’a arch” will allow it to more easily and effectively threatened the countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.
Erdogan’s long term goals are to re-establish the old Ottoman Empire Caliphate with himself as its head, and to do so in alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood which is a dominant (though partially latent) power in virtually all Arabic speaking countries. Erdogan, and his goals in this respect, have been enthusiastically endorsed by the current theological head of the international Muslim Brotherhood Yusuf al-Qaradhawi.
Step number one in terms of achieving that goal was for Turkey to take over its closest neighboring Arab countries. Erdogan originally hoped that ISIS would be the hammer that would bring down the governments of Iraq and Syria after which Turkey could move in “to restore order” to the applause of “world opinion.”
Having Iraq and Syria under Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman” control would then open the door for an easy take over of Jordan, Lebanon, and possibly Saudi Arabia. This would then put pressure on Egypt and the rest of the dominoes throughout North Africa to also fall into place. You can just imagine how tickled the Israelis would be then.
While Turkey’s ISIS plot has fallen apart, Erdogan’s goals have not changed, they are only delayed a bit. Time for plan “B” which is to use the war on ISIS as cover for exterminating Kurds and taking over parts of Syria itself without using a proxy.
It is in this context that Trump looked the other way when Turkey moved into Syria’s Afrin region of N.W. Syria (which is adjacent to the Turkish border), and ethnic cleansed the place. The excuse was Turkey’s claim that the resident power there, the Kurdish PKK, is a terrorist group that threatens Turkey, therefore state sponsor of terrorism Turkey believes that it has the right to defend itself against potential “terror” acts from the PKK.
A LITTLE HISTORY
A little history is in order here to understand why Turkey, and the rest of NATO, considers the PKK to be a terrorist group. Before discussing the PKK and why it is at odds with the Turks, we also need to go back into Ancient history. This is because the Kurds predate the Turks in the region by a good 1,500-2,000 years.
Modern Kurds are descended from three major groups of the ancient world: The Assyrians, the Medes, and the Elamites. If one were to look at a map of the Assyrian Empire (10th-7th centuries), the first thing you notice is that its territory corresponds almost exactly to the areas where Kurds live today, namely northern Iraq, eastern Turkey, northwest Syria, and in a sliver of northwest Iran that is adjacent to Iraq.
In 626 B.C. The last remnant of the Assyrian Empire was wiped out by Babylon in alliance with the Medes out of what is today northern Iran. The Medes exploited Assyria’s defeat by annexing most of its territory to its own growing empire. Ethnic Medes then began flooding into these regions and mixing with the mostly Semitic-speaking former Assyrian citizens. But, again, the regions where today’s Kurds live corresponds almost exactly to that old Mede empire, minus most of its Iranian holdings. The final piece to the puzzle came in the 5th century B.C. when the new power on the block, the Persian Achaemenid empire, deported all of the Elamites from their homeland in southern Iran (to make more room for themselves) to the former Mede controlled regions which are now inhabited by the Kurds.
As a result, the modern Kurdish language is neither Semitic, nor Indo-European, but something else, most likely a mixture of Elamite and the proto-Iranian that the Medes spoke. However, most Kurds today also speak Arabic and are Sunni Muslims. In fact, Islam’s greatest hero during the Crusades, salah ad-deen (Saladin), was a Kurd.
The Crusades were actually touched off by the Turks’ first incursion by force into the Anatolian peninsula at the battle of Manzikert in 1071 when they defeated the Byzantine army and captured the emperor. The result of this battle gave the Turks control of most of the Anatolian peninsula–including the regions where Kurds had been living for thousands of years.
After the Crusades, the Kurdish areas of the Middle East (in Syria, Iran, and Iraq, as well as Anatolia), like most of the rest of the Sunni-dominated regions, became a part of the Ottoman Empire, headed by the militaristic Turks. In 1916, when it became apparent that the once powerful Ottoman Empire would be no more after WWI ended, the British and French got together to decide how to carve up the former Ottoman territories. This was called the Sykes-Picot agreement. The bottom line is that everyone in the Middle East got their own independent state . . . except for the Kurds.
The descendants of the heroes of the Crusades (from the Muslim side), and the original inhabitants of the region predating the Arabs as well as the Turks, now found themselves not only the sole party without a state of their own, but divided up between the new state of Syria, the new state of Iraq, Iran, and even the defeated Central Power enemy of the West, the Turks, got a huge state which included the greater part of Kurdistan.
Can anyone blame the Kurds for being ticked off?
THE COLD WAR ERA
During the Cold War, with the West embracing Turkey into NATO as a counter-point, and a thorn, in the side of the Russians who dominated the Soviet Union, the Russians corresponded by cultivating relations with the Kurds whom the Russians understood would have deep grudges against the Turks (historically Russia’s number one enemy going back to the 13th century).
The result of this Soviet/Russian cultivation of the Kurds was the formation of the far-left Kurdistan Workers Party, the Kurdish acronym of which is the PKK. While America’s CIA was cultivating a Turkish terror group called the “Grey Wolves” to create mayhem in Soviet territories, the Soviets encouraged the PKK to do the same inside Turkey. Thus, the reason why the United States and NATO declared the PKK to be a terrorist group is because of its attacks against Turkish interests at the behest of the Soviet Union–even though the PKK consider themselves to be merely “freedom fighters.”
From a Cold War peak of 50,000 fighters, the PKK has dwindled to less than 4,000. After the fall of the Soviet Union it called a cease fire vis-à-vis the Turks and tried to rebrand itself as a political party. However, after 2004 with Erdogan becoming increasingly dictatorial and fascist, PKK remnants have resumed the fight, but this time only against Turkish military and intelligence targets. They have also moved away from their old far-Left Socialism and have been agitating merely for some sort of autonomy in Turkey similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds in Iraq, rather than a full-fledged independent state.
So, it begs the question as to why they are still considered to be a terrorist group by the United States and NATO. This question kind of answers itself: Because Turkey is still a member of NATO, the United States and other NATO countries allow the Turks to dictate to them who the good guys are and who the bad guys are in the near and middle east.
And, the Turks consider all Kurds to be PKK terrorists–even the YPG Kurds that bore the brunt of the ground fighting side-by-side with American forces against ISIS.
Which brings us back to Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria. To understand the enormity of Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, one only has to look at the timeline.
THE TIME LINE
The genesis of Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria began with a phone call with Turkey’s Erdogan on 14 December 2018. This phone call was intercepted by just about every intelligence organization on the planet, and then leaked.
One version of this phone call has Trump being the initiator of the call. The other version has Erdogan being the initiator of the call. One version has Trump asking Erdogan to move into Northern Syria to finish off ISIS, so that he (Trump) could fulfill his campaign promise to “bring all the American troops home.” The other version of the call has Erdogan “ordering” Trump to go ahead and pull out and “leave the remnants of ISIS to us.”
On 19 December 2018 Trump formally, and publicly, announced his decision to pull all the American forces out of Syria–in what he thought would be a feel good moment days before Christmas.
And I let out a huge groan of pain–as did Secretary of Defense “Mad Dog” Mattis and many others. Here is why:
Turkey under Erdogan has become an Islamo-fascist, and a Turkish racist fascist state. Erdogan’s ruling party, the AKP (Justice and Development), is a clone of the international terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood. The state ideology of Islamism mixed with Turkish “Grey Wolf” racism is at least as vicious as anything Hitler’s Nazi party came up with.
Prior to that fateful 14 December 2018 phone call, Turkey’s state ideology and behavior had been on full display for the entire world to see when they moved into Syria’s Afrin region. They did not just exterminate remnant PKK members. No, they exterminated every Kurd, Christian, and Yazidi they could find. It you’re a Turk, that’s what you do (If I may paraphrase some recent Geico ads).
Actually, though, Erdogan did not use his own regular army troops. No, he used irregular militias to do most of the dirty work. Who were these militia troops? Remnants of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Muslim Brotherhood groups. A real fine collection of the world’s worst terrorist organizations. The very groups that Americans and their YPG allies were supposedly fighting. They had to sit in the neighboring region of Manbij and watch in horror as Erdogan’s hired thugs ethnic cleansed the Afrin district.
It is with this background that Trump invited the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, and the 21st century’s new “Hitler” to move into the Manjib district so he could exterminate the very Kurds who had been fighting and bleeding side-by-side with our American boys.
Which begs the question of why? How could this happen?
My take on Trump is that he his a generalist. He has operated most of his life on “gut instincts.” These gut instincts have generally served him well in the world of business, and even in the world of politics it won him the world’s top prize his first time out without every having run even for “dog catcher” previously.
Even as president, his gut instincts have generally served him well. His over-all policies on the economy, on getting tough with Iran, North Korea, China, and others, have been spot on. While Trump’s gut instincts are generally correct, no one has ever accused him of being exceedingly knowledgeable of all the basic facts and details of a given situation. This is where his advisors are supposed to come in.
So, where were his advisors on that Turkey thing? Was James Mattis the only one in the room who was aware of what Turkey was up to? Where was John Bolton on that? Gina Haspel? Mike Pompeo?
Trump had never made a secret of his desire to withdraw from Syria. It was a campaign promise. He also repeated that desire in the Spring of 2018. That’s when his advisors, all of them, should have stepped in and said “no, Mr. President, and here’s why . . .”
WHAT IN THE “H” IS GOING ON IN WASHINGTON?
My own gut feeling about “inside the beltway” policy makers of both parties is that they all have their heads so far up their anti-Russia, pro-NATO (fill in the blank), that they can’t see Turkey as anything other than a solid, NATO ally . . . therefore, one of the good guys.
Or, conversely, those few who are somewhat aware of what Erdogan is up to, actually believe that Erdogan is an aberration and that as soon as he is out of the picture (from old age or whatever), that Turkey will return to its natural, pro-West, democratic self. So, therefore, there was no need to warn Trump about Turkey’s intentions. The mindboggling ignorance of history that attitude represents makes me as sick as did Trump’s Syria pullout decision. I’ve got news for these people. Erdogan is the natural Turkey. The cold war, pro-West Turkey was the aberration. Turkey will continue its racist, Islamist, fascists, neo-Ottoman trajectory with or without Erdogan.
This is why Trump blindly allowed/invited Erdogan into the rest of Northern Syria that he had already not gobbled up, because, hey, Turkey is a member of NATO, right? And, they’re in the area, so why not let them clean up the rest of ISIS?
The thought of any American president even talking to Erdogan on the phone (regardless of who initiated the call), just makes me ill–much less inviting him to take over even more territory. Can you imagine FDR calling up Adoph Hitler and asking him to take over Czechoslovakia?
THE RUSSIA-TURKEY CONNECTION
Some on the right have tried to rationalize Trumps move as a brilliant stroke of Machiavellian geostrategic chess play on the belief that it would drive a wedge between Putin and Erdogan. This is wrong for a whole bunch of reasons, foremost of which is that Turkey is still a member of NATO.
To remind everyone, Turkey has been Russia’s number one enemy for 800 years, ever since they allied with the Mongol take down of the first Russian state in the 13th century. Since then there have been numerous Russo-Turkish wars. Putin is well aware of the history between his country and Turkey, and he is playing Erdogan like a violin. He is trying to woo Turkey out of NATO–which would be the best case scenario for the West, as well as for Russia, because that might be the only way we could ever get rid of this albatross around our necks (NATO has no provision for evicting rogue members).
But, sadly, Turkey is still a member of NATO, so, if Trump’s Syria pullout should “drive that wedge” between Putin and Erdogan, and it should lead to war . . .
Should Russia then be forced to attack Turkey, over the Syria problem, then the U.S. (and the rest of NATO) would be forced to go to war so as to defend the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism against the planet’s last remaining Christian great power (Remember, Obama said America is no longer a Christian nation).
Really brilliant guys.
No! Kick Turkey out of NATO first. Then, and only then, do you drive a wedge between Erdogan and Putin.
WHAT HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN SYRIA SINCE TRUMP’S ANNOUNCEMENT
The first thing that happened was that Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis submitted his already prepared letter of resignation when Trump refused to back off on his plan to pull all American troops out of Syria (more on that in a moment).
Then our Kurd allies in the Manbij region (east of Aleppo, just south of the Iraqi border), not being stupid, immediately gave up their dreams of a semi-autonomous region of their own, and promptly offered Syria’s president Assad a full surrender in return for the right to live–because they knew that Erdogan would have them all exterminated as soon as the Americans left. Interestingly, all through this 8-year Syrian war, the YPG Kurds studiously avoided any hostilities with Assad’s Syrian forces as an insurance policy–so they would have an escape clause in the event their fickle American allies (see Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq) should depart like the proverbial deadbeat husband who skips out without paying any alimony, and thus the Kurds dream of a semi-autonomous state of their own should collapse.
Damascus then sent troops to the Manbij province. These troops discreetly did not enter Manbij city where U.S. troops were still located, but instead set camp to the west and northwest of the city so as to act as a buffer, and deterrent, to any Turkish forces that might invade. Reports out of the Middle East had it that there were Russians embedded into these Syrian forces for added deterrent.
In the meantime, while all of this was going on (and starting even before), al-Qaeda had taken over the province of Idlib which is located just to the south of Afrin, and west of Aleppo.
In the Afrin region, the Turks, after ethnic cleansing the place, repopulated it with Turkic-speaking peoples from several other countries–repeating exactly what they did to northern Cyprus in 1974 (when we had another president who was distracted by being investigated). Arabic media reports now claim that the primary language there is Turkish, and Turkish-signed restaurants and other businesses now dominate the scene in Afrin.
Erdogan has established a branch of his Muslim Brotherhood clone AKP party in Afrin, and has also firmly announced that his troops are in Syria to stay. Period.
Erdogan and Putin, instead of having a wedge driven between them as some had hoped, kissed and made up. Putin then gave Erdogan the green light to take over Idlib province, provided that token Russian troops and observers are included (to make sure the Turks behave themselves). The Turkish move into Idlib coming down from Afrin was done without firing a shot, indicating that there was likely some prior cooperation between the Turks and al-Qaeda. Egyptian talk show host ‘Amru Adeeb on 11 March 2019 read a report claiming that the Syrian MB (closely allied to al-Qaeda) asked Erdogan to occupy North Syria.
The so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) is actually nothing more than a Turkish-backed al-Qaeda faction, proving that there was indeed cooperation between al-Qaeda and Turkey all along (Rossomando, John, U.S. Envoy Met with Syrian Rebel Leader Who Expressed Solidarity with al-Qaeda).
Hey, folks! Wasn’t it al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11? Isn’t that the whole reason we initiated military actions in the Middle East? Doesn’t anyone remember 9/11? Apparently not, because the Obama administration actually cooperated with al-Qaeda factions, sometimes in conjunction with Turkey, and sometimes based on its own initiative. “The Obama administration spent $500 million training and equipping Syrian rebels linked with the FSA” (Rossomando, www.investigativeproject.org, 20 Feb.).
So, the Trump administration has seemed so far to also be totally oblivious to the al-Qaeda part of the equation.
All of this was a result of an American administration being too laser focused on just defeating ISIS while being distracted by politicized investigations coming from Robert Mueller’s team and a Democrat controlled Congress, and while China and North Korea negotiations were in flux.
PROOF THAT TRUMP FINALLY RECOGNIZED HIS MISTAKE
Trump, for whatever reason, was totally oblivious to the history between Kurds and Turks, and oblivious to Erdogan’s intentions in Syria. What he needed was a big slap in the face to wake him up. What he got were actually two slaps in the face. One was Mattis’s resignation letter. The second was the Kurds we had been allied with basically surrendering all of heir dreams to the Assad regime, proving that Mattis was right.
Once made aware of the severity of his mistake, and the severity of the Erdogan’s intentions, Trump immediately tried to make amends. First he almost pleadingly proclaimed how he didn’t want the Kurds to get hurt. Then, he did backtrack, sort of, without calling it a backtrack. He announced that the pullout would be delayed until ISIS was totally defeated, then he added that he would keep 200 American troops there with the YPG Kurds without specifying for how long (rumors have it that the actual number will be closer to 1,000. So, in the end, not much of a “pull out.” Translation: Trump did backtrack, but would never admit it publicly).
In January, after the holidays, Trump sent Bolton and Pompeo to the Middle East to do damage control. Bolton’s mission was primarily to dissuade Erdogan from doing anything naughty, but not being the most diplomatic person on the planet, he basically ordered Turkey to not make any moves into Syria unless cleared by the U.S.
Erdogan responded by refusing the meet with Bolton, and saying that nobody tells Turkey what to do. Then he massed even more troops and heavy artillery on the border with Syria (these were later seen to move into Idlib, as above).
Pompeo, after trying to convince the Israelis and our Arab allies that the U.S. is not abandoning the Middle East, then told the Kurds that they should “beg the Turks for protection.”
And, I wanted to throw the TV through my living room wall when I heard that. The fact that Pompeo could even make such a statement means that he did not even begin to understand who the Turks are and what their intentions in Syria and the Middle East as a whole are. And, if Pompeo did not understand these basic facts, makes me believe that President Trump still did not fully comprehend the situation–even after the two above-mentioned slaps in the face–otherwise how could he send his Secretary of State into the region so ill informed?
WHAT IS WRONG HERE?
This entire scenario begs the question of why Trump made that announcement, then acted so surprised when it blew up in his face? So, I have to ask again, where were his advisors on all of that? Coats, Pompeo, Bolton, Haspel, Mattis, why could they all not converge as a group on the oval office in the spring of 2018 when Trump had repeated his campaign promise to withdraw the troops from Syria?
Was Mattis the only one who had the foggiest idea about what the reality on the ground was in the Middle East? Or, did they all actually try to dissuade the president only to have him think he knew better than his advisors?
Pompeo’s above-mentioned pleading with the Kurds to beg Erdogan for mercy tells me that it may have been a combination of advisors not being as well versed in the situation as they should have been, and a head-strong president whose only thought was to fulfill a campaign promise.
Don’t get me wrong, Trump’s current crop of above-mentioned advisors are heads and shoulders above their predecessors in the Obama administration, and probably also going back through the Bush and Clinton administrations. Unfortunately, that still leaves an ocean of room for stupidity, incompetence, and just plan misunderstanding basic facts.
Maybe there’s just something in the water there in D.C. that makes people suddenly become stupid.
Erdogan’s establishment of his AKP “Justice and Development” party in Afrin amounts to a de facto annexation of the region. This is Erdogan’s Sudetenland. This is the new/old Caliphate folks. This is Ottoman empire 2.0.
Once American troops are completely out of the region, expect the ISIS sleeper cells in place in Iraq and Syria to become active again in regions not already controlled by Turkey (to do Turkey’s dirty work for it). This will be ISIS in new clothing, as an Iraqi official put it. ISIS 2.0.
As Iran and Turkey both strive to increase their holdings in Syria, they are bound to collide. Russia is allied to the Damascus regime which would be eliminated in a Turkish scenario. Iran is also allied to the Damascus regime and Russia. So, this U.S. withdrawal might eventually lead to the “wedge” being driving between Putin and Erdogan. With the U.S. being allied to Terror sponsor Turkey, thanks to NATO, say hello to WWIII.
Any serious conflict over Syria between NATO and Turkey on one side, and Russia and Iran on the other could quickly spill over into the Ukraine and East European theaters. Most of the Middle East would line up on one side or the other. With this going on, and the U.S. thus tied down, how could China resist doing what it wants to do in the Far East?
People may wonder why I am so against a U.S. pull-out from Syria, while I approve a total U.S. pull-out from Afghanistan . . .
American boys are fighting, dying, and having their body parts blown off in Afghanistan for one reason, and one reason only . . . and that is to make China rich.
China wants to construct two new “Old silk roads,” one a super highway for truck traffic linking western China with Pakistan’s Indian ocean coast. The other, a high speed rail corridor linking western China with Iran. These transit corridors will with China a more direct access to Middle East oil and open up the Middle East to Chinese products.
Both of these transit corridors, while avoiding Afghanistan, skirt its border making tempting targets for terrorist and criminal gangs operating in a failed state. Having U.S. troops there in Afghanistan to keep the lid on things saves China from the trouble of having to play policeman itself.
In Syria we should have hung around in order to prevent two neighboring powers (Turkey and Iran) from entering the vacuum. In Afghanistan we should want the two neighboring giants of Russia and China to come in and try to keep peace. Perhaps having a China bogged down in Afghanistan might prevent them from seeking mischief in Taiwan, Japan, or other areas of east Asia.
To be sure, the U.S. had plenty of reason to enter Afghanistan in the first place, to exact vengeance against al-Qaeda and kill bin Laden, and as many of his lieutenants as possible. Once that was accomplished we should have left. Picking a fight with the Taliban should not have been part of the game plan. Here is why:
The Taliban were not a terrorist organization. True, they harbored al-Qaeda and fought to protect al-Qaeda once we had entered the theater, and true, they are a totally disgusting collection of worthless protoplasm with their public stoning to death of women who are victims of rape, their public beheadings in front of stadium crowds, etc., but they themselves were not international terrorists. They were nothing but a local Afghani tribal grouping. I stress the word tribal because that explains the Taliban’s behavior.
In tribal culture, once you’ve offered the hospitality of your tent to a guest, the shame and honor culture demands that you also become your guest’s protector. No harm should come to him while he is a guest in your tent. Even if your guest has gone out and hurt someone else, then returned to your tent, you are still honor bound to protect him and ensure his safety while he is in your tent. For you to fail to fulfill your obligation of protection would incur so much shame upon you that the only way to restore your honor would be to commit suicide.
So, when the U.S. demanded that the Taliban turn Usama bin Laden over for his 9/11 responsibility, the Taliban reacted in the only way that their tribal shame and honor culture would allow them–regardless of bin Laden’s guilt. Thus, not only could they not turn bin Laden over, but they were also honor bound to fight for him when we invaded.
Our boots-on-the-ground approach there also automatically triggered the “defensive jihad” mentality of most Afghanis. Hence the impossibility of ever winning a war there.
Another issue is that the Afghan “government” that we’ve set up there composed of Uzbekis and Tajikis . . . are not much better than the Pashtu that the Taliban is based on.
So, let the Chinese and Russians keep order in their neck of the woods. Why us?
THE ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SYRIA PULLOUT
We have, over the years, built up a reputation (particularly in the Middle East) of being an ally that cuts and runs with Syria now added to the list of Vietnam, Somalia, and Iraq. The moral being that in any way with the United States . . . all you have to do is survive, and you’ll eventually win because the U.S. will leave sooner or later.
This belief on the part of many in the Middle East is compounded by basic Islamic culture.
In Islamic culture, if your enemy pulls out of a conflict, even though technically winning, that is seen as a sign of weakness in Islamic eyes. And, any sign of weakness invites aggression. This is supported by the Qur’an:
So, do not get weak in the knees and call for peace when you have the upper hand, for Allah is with you and He will not hold your actions against you (Qur’an 47:35).
In other words, whenever the Muslims have the upper hand in any war, they are supposed to finish the job. The corollary to that in the minds of Muslims is that any power that does not “finish the job” in any battle with them, and pulls out (like we did in Iraq and now in Syria) is a sign of weakness–even if the departing party has the upper hand.
And, weakness invites aggression. So, in the near future we can expect to see a renewed surge at all levels by the jihadi forces.