In the midst of the continual orchestra of outrage being conducted by Donald Trump, so much can happen in such a short period of time that issues of huge
significance can all too quickly be pushed out of view.
Trump is of course presently up to his neck in a Ukrainian related impeachment mire of which he is the sole author of his own misfortune.
However, let’s not forget that just a few short weeks ago, Trump’s reckless and very public decision to pull out of Syria was dominating the news cycle. Just to remind you that following a ‘phone call with Turkish strongman President Erdogan, Trump took it upon himself to unilaterally declare that US forces were coming out of Syria and that our Kurdish allies (who had been so instrumental in the defeat of ISIS) were now on their own.
That of course is bad news for the Kurds. American forces, light as they were in northern Syria, were keeping the Turks in check (the Turks and the Kurds have a
long history of animosity and sub-national conflict). And sure enough, within a matter of hours of the US announcement, Turkish forces went into action against
the Kurds in northern Syria.
For Trump, this was just business as usual. No doubt Erdogan made sure to butter Trump up in the aforementioned ‘phone call. And of course, two things
that Trump likes even more than obvious fake tans and over-length red ties?
Flattery and authoritarian strongmen - just like Erdogan.
The sense of Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds, who lost tens of thousands of fighters in the battle to destroy ISIS, reverberated around the world. No doubt the likes of
Putin, Xi and Orban, fellow strongmen cut from the same cloth as Erdogan, looked on with glee. In fact, Erdogan and Putin have since put together a joint Turkish-
Russian military / security effort in those areas that the US has now vacated.
Never in the Soviet Union’s wildest dreams could Russian influence be as enhanced as it has become with Trump in the Oval office.
To Trump, nothing has any value other than in a transactional sense. He deemed the Kurds to no longer be of importance to him (that’s him, not the US) and
consequently they should be cut adrift. No honor, no higher sense of purpose or basic understanding of the complex geo-political nature of the Middle East. Just a
stab in the back for the Kurds. Trump truly has the moral depth of a puddle and is the walking talking embodiment of knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing.
Even large chunks of the GOP temporarily broke free of Trump’s hypnotic gaze and denounced his brazen treachery. Mitch McConnell looked like he might
actually have feelings after all and lo and behold, Lindsey Graham finally surfaced for air from where he has had his face firmly buried, to rip Trump for his awful treatment of the Kurds.
Trump’s treatment of the Kurds sends a dismal message to the rest of the world.
That message is that American foreign and defence policy is now seemingly nothing more than a flimsy, transactional hotch-potch of Trump’s whims and clumsy amateurishness on the world stage. Why now would up and coming movements of national liberation, for example, look to the US for guidance, support or help if that is the way they now treat their allies?
Unfortunately, for many years now since the end of the War, the US has been viewed with suspicion by some around the world. Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds serves only to reinforce
that suspicion and allow US critics to boast “See, we told you.”
The ramifications of Trump’s foreign policy (if a series of largely inconsistent and self-serving pronouncements can be called “policy”) will be felt for years, if not decades. Ultimately, by abandoning the Kurds to a brutal Turkish fate, Trump has made the national security of the US weaker, not stronger.
Likewise, Americans around the world are that little bit less secure than they were before his decision to pull out of Syria and abandon a key ally. Americans overseas will increasingly be seen in the context of transactional chess-pieces that can be used to sway Trump one way or the other.
There is a saying out there, and it’s actually very much the case, that everything Trump touches, ultimately dies. And yes, that same is true of his meddling with American foreign and defence policy. Trump will, thankfully, be gone soon enough.
However, the damage that he leaves behind will take decades to put straight. America’s salvage and recovery begins the very next day Trump is out of office.