In what surely constitutes one of his greatest acts of geopolitical cowardice to date, Trump has decided to greenlight a Turkish invasion in Northern Syria by withdrawing U.S. military forces from the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as brutal an authoritarian leader as one is likely to find anywhere in the world, somehow convinced Trump to step aside and allow him to pursue his bloodthirsty ambitions during a phone call between the two yesterday.
It is an objectively evil move on the part of Trump as it leaves our allies, prominently the Kurds—who have fought bravely to defeat ISIS—twisting in the wind before the advancing might of the Turkish military and opens up the very real possibility of a state-backed genocide. We promised these people our help, supported their war efforts, and now stand poised to completely abandon them.
While the American people have yet to learn the full details of the call between Trump and Erdogan, the former’s track record for conversations with foreign leaders is a serious source for concern. The American president’s recently revealed attempt to convince his Ukrainian counterpart to open an investigation into Joe Biden and his son during a similar phone call opens up a whole world of ghastly possibilities about what was said between Trump and Erdogan, not just during Sunday’s conversation but throughout Trump’s tenure. Because of his overt, prevalent corruption every single decision, domestic and foreign, that Trump makes going forward must be dissected and questioned on a granular level. He simply cannot be trusted to have the United States’ best interests at heart.
Renowned economist Paul Krugman floated some of the worst possibilities in a tweet:
So did Trump just betray the Kurds because
(a) He has business interests in Turkey
(b) Erdogan, being a brutal autocrat, is his kind of guy
(c) His boss Vladimir Putin told him to
Remarkable that all three stories are perfectly plausible.
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 7, 2019
Now, a National Security Council source with direct knowledge of the Sunday afternoon phone call has revealed to Newsweek that Trump got “rolled” by the Turkish dictator.
“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something. The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line,” the source said.
President Trump has made it clear that he wants no responsibility when it comes to the estimated 2000 ISIS fighters currently being held by Syrian Democratic Forces (a diverse but largely Kurdish organization) in Northeast Syria. Erdogan has assured the United States that Turkey will take care of detaining and administering to the prisoners.
“The ISIS prisoners, some of them, will eventually be freed amongst the chaos, and remain in the area or go elsewhere to rejoin the fight,” said the anonymous official. He or she went on to explain just what a historical blunder Trump has made for not only those living in the region but for American interests as well: “To be honest with you, it would be better for the United States to support a Kurdish nation across Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It would be another Israel in the region.”
The backlash to the White House’s announcement was swift and bipartisan. Trump has since tweeted out a convoluted message that somehow manages to vaguely threaten Turkey while simultaneously failing to forbid Erdogan’s forces from any specific actions. It’s the usual cravenness we’ve come to expect from this American president, a milquetoast missive that serves no purpose beyond muddying the waters and providing political cover for himself.
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
According to Newsweek, the NSC official revealed that Trump didn’t explicitly encourage Erdogan to attack the Kurds, but nor did he threaten economic reprisals for such an attack. The official went on to compare the situation to playground bullying. When the more powerful force (the United States) steps aside it allows the smaller force (Turkey) to smash the even smaller force (the SDF).
“When the bigger guy moves aside in the playground, they get to beat on the smaller guy and this is not about the U.S. being the world police. We are telling the world, we will use you and then throw you away. It’s not like they don’t have a television in Asia, in Africa, and South America,” said the official.
Clearly, the American president is content to turn a blind eye as our brave Kurdish allies are slaughtered. This is a stain not just on Trump’s legacy, but the American soul itself.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.