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?”

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

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

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