It is host Chris Wallace’s job to ask the tough questions on Fox News Sunday.
That’s exactly what he did Sunday, grilling Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on President Trump’s decision to authorize a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military forces as Turkish forces invade Northern Syria to battle hostile Sunni Muslim Kurds along a shared border.
Wallace’s questioning was framed around Trump’s “abandonment” of the Kurds, which has been roundly characterized as a betrayal of an ally in the fight against ISIS
Early reports coming out of the battle zone are troubling: executions by Turkish-backed militias are allegedly being carried out, and many ISIS fighters have apparently escaped imprisonment. It is a terrible situation. But though the president has stated that his administration will act to destroy the Turkish economy with severe sanctions should President Erdogan persist in or expand this incursion, he has also made clear that he’s not going to send American soldiers to fight and die in another potential Middle East quagmire.
His non-interventionist withdrawal strategy should be given a chance to succeed.
Trump’s authorization of the pullout call did not come out of a foreign policy vacuum; he campaigned on extricating us from epochal conflict in the unceasingly war-torn region. Nonetheless, he will now be inundated with criticism and admonitions from the left and right, insisting we must rescue the Kurds out of fealty to a discredited globalist foreign policy, the costs of which under sane leadership would have been unthinkable.
Calling President Bush’s invasion of Iraq one of the biggest if not the biggest military blunder in our history, as Mr. Trump has, is a statement freighted with allusion to those who served, those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and the many thousands more who suffered grievous injury in the conflict. We must never forget to honor their patriotism and valor. It is precisely those men and women in uniform that imbue Trump’s commitment to stay out of a potentially protracted Kurdish/Turkish conflict with inescapable wisdom. Trump highlighted the stakes with his eloquent remarks at rallies in Minnesota and Louisiana last week, recounting his impressions of ceremonies marking the return of sons and daughters lost to Middle Eastern wars.
Trump’s neutral, wait-and-see decision on the Kurdish/Turkish flareup, after his administration strongly urged Erdogan not to launch this invasion, will almost certainly be shown to have been a wise one.
Should we really start hitting Turkish tanks with air-to-ground missiles? Would it be helpful to start wasting Turkish soldiers with incendiary explosives? Should we now, as a nation, incur casualties protecting a border steeped in centuries-old enmity when, as Trump rhetorically asked those assembled for his speech last week at the Values Voters summit, “We can’t even protect our own”?
“It’s time to bring them home,” says the president.
Democrats, their accomplice media, the militarist neocon elite, and Trump’s “Washington generals” won’t accept that. They will assail the decision as a stab in the back to a persecuted and embattled ethnic group that has allied with us in the past, most recently against ISIS.
Conversely, Trump Nation will give the president’s decision the benefit of the doubt, at least in the short term. While never forgetting to honor the memory of those who served, especially our fallen warriors, they’re fed up to the gills with nation-building rubbish, and interventions in wars in countries with malleable loyalties, countries endlessly at war to one extent or another, and whose oil—the only thing of value they’ve got—we don’t need anymore.
When Trump supporters hear the “abandonment” spin, they need only imagine the reverse narrative that would have resulted had President Trump agreed to help the Kurds repel Erdogan’s invasion.
That narrative, mostly from disempowered leftists who would rather let the country suffer than admit Trump does anything right, would have painted our commander-in-chief as a war-monger, a leader willing to risk American troops in what amounts to a regional struggle that will continue long after Erdogan’s army crushes the Kurds—assuming the outgunned Kurds are unable to secure game-changing help from Assad and Russia or withdraw from the field. That narrative would have characterized Trump as a man whose campaign promises to avoid such entanglements were as empty as the supposed caches of Iraq’s WMDs.
When it is in our nation’s vital interest to fight, Trump will fight. He has rebuilt our military in preparation should such a need arise. The decisions he makes about when to commit U.S. forces must take into account global-balance-of-power considerations with allies and adversaries alike.
A recent deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia prompted Wallace’s follow-up question to Secretary Esper, the gist of which was, “Are we out of the Middle East or aren’t we.” Esper adroitly explained, to paraphrase, that the Saudi deployment is a strategic move with implications tied to just such global considerations. This Kurdish/Turkish conflict—as protracted and awful as it may turn out to be—is limited from the standpoint of a global balance-of-power strategy. While the Trump administration will monitor the situation closely, and possibly make Erdogan pay a price for his aggression, it is not, at this juncture, in our vital interest to get directly involved. No American soldier should be sacrificed in it.
If Trump had joined the Kurdish fight, rest assured that many of his intellectually dishonest critics would be climbing over each other to blame him for the American bloodshed.
Trump can’t win, but we already knew that. And it is exactly because his supporters know how the duplicitous resistance works, how the defeated American left and usurped neocon interventionists will shape-shift to align against him no matter what he does, that their critiques are deeply distrusted.
Mark Ellis is the author of A Death on the Horizon, a novel of political upheaval and cultural intrigue. He came aboard at PJ Media in 2015. His literary hangout is Liberty Island. Follow Mark on Twitter.