Trump dropped a bombshell with his surprise order for a withdrawal of US troops from Syria, the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan, and the resignation of his Secretary of Defense.
But surprisingly, Trump’s view of the Syrian conflict closely resembles Obama’s, i.e., that the US had no serious interest, either economic or strategic, in the conflict.
Recall that Obama was often criticized by our Middle East allies for refusing to commit ground troops to the battle, authorizing only limited numbers of technical advisors, along with air support.
Obama’s stance was often attacked by his critics as ‘arms-length combat.’ But that could also be said for EU allies France and UK, that made the least minimal commitments, with France and the UK providing no more than 500 troops, total, and Germany refusing to take any part in the conflict.
Even at that, Obama’s war focus wavered badly, from initially supporting the Saudi and UAE, while arming and training “moderate jihadists” as a proxy-warriors to overthrow Assad.
When many of these moderate rebels turned out to be not so moderate, with some breaking ranks to join ISIS, the US reversed focus to support the Kurdish militia, the most effective fighters against both the moderate jihadists and ISIS, fighting in support of the Assad regime.
Obama, like Trump, correctly saw that the main threat to stability in the middle east was the growth of the radical jihadist, ISIS, that occupied large areas in East Iraq and Syria, while, intent on building similar outposts in Africa.
US neo-cons and cold warriors were stunned at Trump’s withdrawal announcement, as their dream for regime change in the Middle East utterly collapsed.
Their long-held view that regime change could turn back the clock to a time when the West colonized the regions and stripped their natural resource assets was totally discredited and belied by the experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria.
If we learned anything from Vietnam, and disastrous wars that followed, that it’s long past time for conquering and exploiting poor countries. Even without modern weapons, devoid of air force or navy, their people will fight on against, against impossible odds, eventually wearing down the would-be conquerors by forcing them to spend fortunes in lives and treasure until they are finally forced to declare victory and slink home.
After seventeen years in Afghanistan, in a never-ending war, even our military has come to the conclusion that this war is unwinnable. Like Vietnam, the war always lacked the essential ingredients for victory in terms of an established, effective government that held the loyalty of its countrymen, and military force capable of protecting the country.
In their absence, the US has been forced into taking over the fighting on its own, as it did in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Without a negotiated settlement, the war will likely continue indefinitely. The same could be said of Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
In the movie,“W,” about the younger Bush Administration and it’s march to war in Iraq, there is a revealing scene in which the character portrayed as VP Cheney goes to a map of the middle east, aims his pointer at all the region’s countries, saying, “If we took all the countries in the area and controlled their oil, who would f..k with us then?”
The character portrayed as Colin Powell responds, “Spoken like a true oil man.”
Although the movie is only a dramatic portrayal, we would lay odds that conversations like the one portrayed in the movie frequently took place amongst the real-life players. Recall McCain during his Presidential campaign, outrageously singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Or consider the long-time slogan of the neo-cons,
“Real men go to Tehran.”
What that long line of interventionist wars clearly showed were that these countries were more than willing to defend themselves against the occupying forces. And these guerrilla wars by much weaker countries against far more powerful imperialists invaders could go on for many years, in a war of attrition, draining the resources of their western rulers until, eventually, until they were forced to retreat. Afghanistan is a prime example, with the US war ongoing for seventeen years.
Not surprisingly, Trump was attacked for failing to heed the warnings of his chief military advisor, Secretary of Defense, Mattis, who resigned, setting off a major controversy. And while the media continued to lambast the President and laud the General for his integrity.
Widely ignored by most of the media that Mattis was also formerly fired from his post as head of Centcom by the Obama Administration for allegedly attempting to provoke a conflict with Iran, aimed at undermining the Administration’s efforts to negotiate the freeze on Iran’s nuclear development.
Also ignored is the fact that Trump followed the advice of Gen. Curtis Michael “Mike” Scaparrotti, the highly respected head of the U.S. European Command, who publicly stated that the US had little interest at risk in Syria, and that our support for the Kurds threatened our relations with NATO member Turkey, an alliance considered far more politically important than with the Kurds.
The media also failed to notice that prior to the President’s announced troop withdrawal from Syria, that Russia had successfully negotiated a 60 mile pull back of Iranian troop from Syria’s southern border, aimed at easing tensions and lowering the threats towards Israel.
Also ignored by the western press was at the recent meeting in Abu Dhabi between US special envoy, Khalizad, and the Taliban, where, for the first time, a high level US representative declared that the US was ready to withdraw its military forces if there was a meaningful and verifiable peace settlement, with a guarantee that Afghanistan would no longer be a staging grounds for terrorists attacks on its neighbors or the west.
In attendance at the meeting were representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate, in support of the US position, urging the reluctant Taliban towards direct negotiation with the current Afghan government.
Pakistan’s leadership also gave added support to the meeting. Few middle eastern analysts believe that the Taliban would be willing to reject the US terms, that answers their own demands for a US withdrawal, particularly when backed by the Taliban’s former benefactors.
Instead, the military establishment unloaded its biggest weapon to panic the public, as Senator Lindsey Graham reported to an unconvinced public ‘that the announced troop withdrawal could lead to another 9/11.’ Shades of Colin Powell’s famous address to the UN where he attempted to justify the US attack on Iraq, with pictures of an atomic mushroom cloud emanating from Iraq’s non-existent nuclear weapons.
Despite the news blitz by the military and its media friends of dire consequences for withdrawal, their remains few alternatives besides a permanent presence of US troops, as US public opposition continues to grow against the long and unending interventionists wars in the Middle East and Eurasia.
The military establishment’s opposition to the withdrawal was largely expected and taken for granted, but more surprising was the concerted attack by many left-wing spokes people and their media associates. Senator Elizabeth Warren was the left’s only representative to agree to the withdrawal, although she also condemned the President for not alerting our allies. It left one wondering where the left’s peace movement has gone or if it still exists.
Against this there is a catastrophic history that cannot be denied. While jobs and industries were disappearing from our borders, our leaders engaged in decades long wars in the Middle East and Eurasia, where the discredited neo-con strategy of regime change, based on faked intelligence and false flags, has left in its wake the wreckage of fallen states, the blow-back of global terrorism, and an enormous refuges crisis, to say nothing of the waste of lives and treasure.
A final question: Does our fury against Trump blind us to our own long-term interests?