January 8, 2019

Update on Syria Withdrawal

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Last month, President Trump tweeted, “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!” See our prior coverage here.
Twitter, The Flip Side

On Sunday, “[National Security Adviser John] Bolton said in Israel that the U.S. would pull out only after its troops had rooted out what’s left of [ISIS] in Syria and after the administration had reached an agreement with Turkey to protect Kurdish militias who have fought alongside Americans against the extremists.”
AP News

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan published an op-ed arguing that “Turkey can get the job done” against ISIS in Syria.
New York Times

See past issues

From the Left

The left is criticizing the President for making rash policy decisions without consulting his advisers, and thinks a quick withdrawal is unlikely.

Tweet first, ask questions later. That’s been President Trump’s approach to a host of issues – think of the transgender troop ban – but perhaps nowhere more so than on Syria… [These] walk-backs underscore the rashness of Trump’s initial withdrawal announcement.”
Washington Post

According to Derek H. Chollet, a Pentagon official under President Barack Obama, “In normal times, you would have a discussion on a proposed decision that would lead to the decision, and you would discuss how to implement one. But now, the process is such that once you get policy guidance from the president in the form of a tweet, you reverse-engineer a process.”
New York Times

“Trump, who espouses a kind of nationalist isolationism, is keen on disentangling the United States from costly military adventures that offer him minimal political returns at home… Leading hawks in Washington, including key figures within the administration, see things much differently… senior administration officials are jetting around the Middle East in a bid to assuage allies that the White House is still committed to their security interests. But so far, they’re mostly betraying the discord within the administration over what comes next.”
Washington Post

“Foreign diplomats, frequently buffeted by the President's Twitter blasts, say they have learned to look past them and call their US counterparts. ‘We ignore the tweets,’ said a diplomat from a close US ally… One Republican congressional aide said that [Bolton’s] stance has been interpreted by some lawmakers as a suggestion that the US military will remain in Syria for the long haul, despite Trump's pronouncements.”

“Decisively defeating the Islamic State is no easy task, but what is far harder to do is to defeat the Islamic State while also limiting Iranian influence in Syria… [These descriptions] of Trump’s Syria withdrawal plan sounds suspiciously like a plan to stay in Syria.”
Washington Post

“If you were the Turks, the Kurds, the Syrians, the Iranians, ISIS, or anyone else in the world, friend or foe, whose words would you take seriously—the president’s or his national security adviser’s?”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right is divided on whether a delayed withdrawal, as seems likely now, is the best approach to Syria.

From the Right

The right is divided on whether a delayed withdrawal, as seems likely now, is the best approach to Syria.

“I don’t see how a complete U.S. withdrawal can be accomplished without putting the Kurds in serious jeopardy at the hands of Turkey. Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters we’re allied with as separatists and terrorists… If Bolton is serious about protecting the Kurds, and if he’s speaking for President Trump, we won’t be withdrawing from Syria in the foreseeable future.”
Power Line Blog

Some fear that “Bolton’s conditions are designed to make withdrawal practically impossible for the foreseeable future. Staying in Syria ‘until the last remnants of the Islamic State’ are defeated commits U.S. forces to remain for a long time to come. When any group like this has been beaten, there are always going to be a few scattered members that survive. Going after those last few ‘remnants’ isn’t a good reason to keep U.S. troops illegally in a country where they were never properly authorized to go.”
The American Conservative

“It is not just a question of implementing the right policy, but of policy being implemented by the right person. Getting policy right matters, but constitutional and democratic norms must also be preserved… the military is being deployed without the approval of Congress and against the wishes of the American people. The foreign policy establishment has persistently subverted the president’s policy of withdrawal from the Syria conflict. Even if their policy is right, none of the goals of American involvement in Syria are worth shredding the Constitution for.”
The Federalist

Meanwhile, others argue that “leaving southern Syria in the hands of Iran is asking for a regional war… if the US leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it — and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening. That could very well cause an extremely large boom in the region, one which will eventually entangle the US and Russia and maybe even China.”
Hot Air

Regarding potential disagreement between Trump and Bolton, “it is well known in Washington that over the past two weeks, President Trump has been adjusting his plan to withdraw American troops from Syria in response to feedback from experts, members of Congress, and foreign leaders… Bolton’s statements about conditions for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria were no different than what President Trump told Senator Graham a week earlier.”
National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Swedish festival to screen sci-fi film... in a coffin.

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