Trump’s Syria Withdrawal in the Eyes of a Registered Libertarian
About two weeks ago, President Trump announced the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. At the time, The United States had about an estimated 1,000 forces stationed in the country. The withdrawal started with forces in the controversial Kurdistan region (along the Turkish border) but eventually grew to all forces. Within hours, American troops abandoned bases and strategic facilities and began leaving the country. Since the region of Northern Syria has turned into a bloodbath. Turkey launched airstrikes and a formal invasion of Northern Syria in an effort to create a “safe area”. Videos of Turkish paramilitary forces conducting war crimes against the Geneva Convention are circulating the internet. These reports of slaughter led to a U.S. call for sanctions on Turkey and a hastily negotiated cease-fire fostered by Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump drew criticism from staunch political supporters and opponents with this move. Republican senator Lindsay Graham described the move as, “short-sighted and irresponsible”. The House of Representatives formally voted to condemn Trump’s decision, and most Congressional Democrats are angered by Trump leaving our Kurdish allies “high and dry”.
As expected, Trump received praise from popular Isolationist-Libertarian leaning politicians. Republican Rand Paul told CNN’s Jake Tapper last week,
‘This May Be The Best Thing That Ever Happened To The Kurds…They need a protector in Syria willing to stay”
Paul believes the alliance created between the Kurds and Syria’s embattled President Assad will benefit more than the United States continued involvement in the region. As of now, it is hard to determine if Assad’s forces have since gotten involved in attacking Turkish forces. Democratic Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has expressed that the decision could help bring an end to indefinite regime change…while also confirming that “Kurdish blood is on President Trump’s hands”.
Many opponents to Trump’s decision cite concerns of the thousands of former ISIS members that are currently detained by the Kurds. Reports from the region have suggested hundreds of ISIS sympathizers were able to escape at least one sparsely guarded prison since the conflict began.
In other reactions, The Libertarian Republic, a staunch bias web publication released a number of articles from Guest contributors mostly describing the withdrawal in a negative light. The national Libertarian party has failed to make a formal statement on this recent decision…but a previous press release from January supported Trump’s eventual withdrawal. As a registered Libertarian, I have a particular stance on the United States' involvement in Syria that many Libertarians would not agree with. With that being said, there are some things I must clarify in order to explain my view.
First, I do not believe that ISIS is a threat to the United States. This is a contemporary Libertarian belief that the Islamic State is not truly an existential threat to the United States. ISIS is a terrorist organization that has no legitimate claim to land in Syria. Still, these former fighters that could be freed in the Kurdish-Turkish conflict pose a threat to U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Second, I believe the United States involvement in Syria was a crucial strategic mission to CENTCOM (U.S. Forces Middle East Operations Command). Although I disagree with the U.S. getting involved unofficially in conflicts in the Middle East (without a formal declaration of war)…the United States has a formidable interest in this situation. Not only was the United States able to outsource the ground combat against ISIS to the Kurds (who lost over 11,000 of their own fighters), but the Kurds have since recreated civilization in this area. The Kurds have proven to be a necessary ally in the region when other countries have changed their opinions on the United States-based on geopolitical influences.
Third, What is the purpose of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) if we can not negotiate between members without using significant economic sanctions. The strength of this alliance should be checked, especially if a member can not be influenced by other members against the invasion of another country. Germany, France, Britain, and the United States have all condemned Turkey for the invasion. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not care, saying no true cease-fire is on the table until Kurdish forces retreat from the “safe area”. Erdogan even referenced the countries potential need for nuclear weapons. They have been working with the Russian Government on nuclear energy…what is to stop them from exploring a weaponized nuclear arsenal. How strong is NATO if the most influential member (United States) can not persuade Turkey against an invasion of a country and continued non-proliferation?
I believe Trump made an incorrect decision to pull U.S. troops totally out of Syria. Another problem in this whole situation was the inability to defuse a NATO ally to invade Syria. The withdrawal has made other U.S. military personnel in the Middle East more vulnerable to externalities from this situation. Additionally, other superpowers have been emboldened against U.S. abilities in the area. Russia has already moved forces in to take over some of the former U.S. facilities. The U.S. is now less capable to control ISIS and to operate in the best interest of our soldiers serving in the middle east.
I can disagree with the original intent and U.S. involvement in the region, but at the end of the day, the U.S. will maintain strategic positions in the Middle East for years to come. Today, it would be impossible to dissolve CENTCOM and bring home over 50,000 U.S. troops at once. I am all for reducing our footprint in the Middle East, but we must do so in a tactical strategic manner that does not destabilize the region.
As a permanent cease-fire hangs in the air (Mike Pence crossing his fingers). History will tell if Trump's decision was a terrible catalyst for destabilization. For the sake of thousands of Kurds involved….I hope this is not the case.