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What did Trump just do in Syria?

The New York Times is scathing about President Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria and let the Turks invade:

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

That sounds very bad to me. I support two entities in the Middle East (and am deeply suspicious of all other entities): Israel, and the Kurds. Has Trump just shafted the Kurds? If the above is right, it would seem so.

I seem vaguely to recall being told that “the Kurds” come in two varieties. There are the Bad Kurds who are Marxist idiots, and who are fighting Turkey (also bad) rather idiotically. And then there are the Good Kurds, further east, who are fighting other religious fundamentalists and who are far more sensible. That could be drivel, either because it was drivel to start with or because I have remembered it all wrong and turned it into drivel. But if not drivel, might something like that have a bearing on what Trump has just done? Or on what he thinks he has done?

My earlier posting re the Kurds was an exercise in libertarian fundamentalism. Now I am asking about the rights and wrongs of an actual foreign policy decision, in an imperfect world, but a world capable of being made horribly worse. It’s one thing to regret a bad situation, caused by previous bad decisions made earlier, by others. It’s quite another to make that situation far worse, with yet another bad decision, to just turn the clock back, come what may, in circumstances where it actually can’t be turned back. “You wouldn’t start from here? Welcome to the world, Mr President. Here is where you now are and you must play the ball where it now lies, rather than from where you say you would have landed it.” Etcetera.

To put all this another way, is Trump as “impulsive” as his critics have long been saying? Until now, he has impressed me a lot. His “impulses” have seemed, on the whole, rather smart. He has, as we often like to say here, at least been making all the right enemies. But as of now, this Syria decision seems dumb. So, is the NYT just doing fake news, again? If not, can what Trump just did be persuasively defended?

Comments please.

106 comments to What did Trump just do in Syria?

  • Send British troops to defend the feckless Kurds. Enough Americans have died for them.

  • Fred Z

    Every word in every article in the New York Times about Trump is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.

    The Kurds are another crazy murderous bunch of middle east savages who for a brief time fought with the US. There has never been a treaty, a promise or anything like it. One cannot betray an obligation or promise which has never existed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Has Trump just shafted the Kurds?”

    Yes, obviously. But I don’t think Trump should take the entire blame. The isolationist stance is a popular one in the USA, and as Trump says, it’s a part of the populist platform on which he got elected.

    It was particularly perfidious in this case to pull out so fast and with so little notice that the Kurds had no time to negotiate any alternative protection from other countries – a NATO peacekeeping force, for example – but I wouldn’t be surprised if the resulting easily predictable massacre/genocide was part of the point.

    It’s a dual lesson – the Europeans have been bitching and moaning about the USA’s attempts to stomp on dictators and totalitarians for decades. Iran today. Iraq previously. And they barely lift a finger to help. They’ve been wooing Erdogan, despite him being an obvious Islamist bastard, and trying to buy his cooperation. Well, now they’ve got a taste of the consequences when America stops playing policeman, and they’re asked to take over. I doubt the lesson will be taken, but I suppose you’ve got to try. And there’s a lesson back home to the isolationists – you’ve got what you wanted, and now you’re going to be seen as the self-centred scum responsible for the back-stabbing treacherous genocide of your own allies at the hands of Communist-backed Islamists. Again, I doubt anyone its directed at will see it that way, but it’s worth a try.

    The lesson I worry about, though, is the one it teaches to the victims of the totalitarian butchers in the Middle East. America is not your friend. America is not interested in your freedom, only their own. America will stab you in the back and abandon you to the dictators as soon as supporting you becomes politically inconvenient. So you’re better off knuckling under to the tyrants in future, and refusing to cooperate with the Americans.

    To the Jihadi recruiters, this is pure Gold. It’s an Islamic State terrorist’s wet dream. You’ve just unleashed ISIS again, turned the Kurds against you, scared off any other group in the Middle East who might in future consider supporting you, and handed a golden propaganda opportunity to every Islamist wanting to present America as the Great Satan. Frankly, it makes *me* want to join the Jihad! I can only imagine what it will do you impressionable young men across the Islamic world.

    If this is meant to be a lesson to the world in what happens when the USA abandons the defence of freedom, I fear it will be an expensive one.

    On the other hand – compared to much of the history of the Middle East, this is about typical, so I guess it could be argued that it’s not going to change anything very much. There have been genocides and attempted genocides before. There have been wars and broken alliances and Western treachery before. What’s one more?

  • Tracy Coyle

    From the reporting, he removed either 50 or 500 troops. Either amount, but especially the lower, would have no impact on the two sides (Turkey and the Kurds) if they wanted to open the guns and start blazing away – only the fact that we were there held them back. Which frankly makes us a totem and for our troops, a target. Recall Beirut. The Kurds are not a singular group. It is like saying ‘American Indians’. There are more factions in that Tribe than fingers on our hands. I’m sure they ALL pay lipservice, but are they ALL really OUR allies? Pakistan is nominally an ally, so is India and they are staring at each other with death in their eyes. Which side would we take in a shooting war between them?

    Turkey is a NATO ally. A godawful shitty one, but by Treaty, an ally. We are bound to support them in a conflict. We have no such agreement with the Kurds…It would be like having an agreement with the Sunnis in Iraq but not the Shiites. Hell…Iraq has three groups with different agendas and we theoretically support all three, but not by standing between them.

    I consider the pullout necessary. And yes, if Europe thinks it was a terrible idea, let them put THEIR troops, not NATO troops, into the positions. I don’t like leaving the Kurds happening, but apparently we’ve been doing it for 25 years, via every administration. And if it WAS only 50 troops from the area, NOT doing so was criminal negligence.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    This seems relevant.

  • bobby b

    50 troops. That’s what he removed. And I suspect he did so after Erdogan indicated he was going.

    So now, Erdogan sits on about 3.5 million people – Syrians? – looking to run to Europe for refuge. Europe has been acting outraged about this, but acting outraged doesn’t help much. Now, it would appear that, if they don’t want those 3.5 million people, they’ll have to do something more. I’ve learned that Trump seems to excel at feints within feints, and pulling Europe into this mess would be a neat feint.

    (Yes, the Kurds come from two main separate groups. Find Rand Paul’s recent interview on this topic for some clarity.)

  • Tyler Rouillard

    Supporting the Kurds was always a front for, among other things, maintaining forever war and checking Iran. Trump has barely even done anything here and the usual warmongers (NYT, and apparently this otherwise intelligent website) have lost their minds.

    Any comments about so-called isolationism certainly don’t describe the reality of American foreign policy. Over 1,000 military bases in over 90 countries and tentacles in virtually every political process in the world. This type of ignorant foreign policy has consequences, like creating new terrorists and enemies of otherwise indifferent people.

    A policy of non-interventionist also has consequences, primarily not killing millions around the world, sending citizens to die for nothing or strangling the domestic economy.

    Neocon interventionists need not worry though. American forever war is here to stay. It won’t be long before some other poor, unfortunate country is bombed into liberation and made a western utopia like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc etc etc

  • bobby b

    “The lesson I worry about, though, is the one it teaches to the victims of the totalitarian butchers in the Middle East. America is not your friend. America is not interested in your freedom, only their own.”

    And who was it that taught that lesson? Trump, when he removed fifty soldiers from the region? (Not exactly a huge move, unless you’re one of those fifty soldiers.) Or those who turned this into a huge “omigawd he’s done evil again!” theater for partisan gain? It’s those people who are pounding your lesson home to the rest of the world – dishonestly.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “You’re right.”

    “You’re right.”

    In chorus: “But you just said I’m right!”

    “What can I say? You’re both right.”

    .

    Feels like The Sith redux (I repeat myself), but OTOH even 500 troops is not a large force … depending on circumstances.

    OTOOH, the symbolism alone ….

  • Freddo

    Maybe Trump figured it is someone else turn to worry about the Middle East (especially with fracking going a long way to energy independence for the USA). The dear leaders in Brussels certainly haven’t contributed anything except the usual smarmy remarks and attempts to kiss ass with Iran (opportunities for French oil companies are important enough to ignore any nuclear weapon programs). With Assad still in power and nobody willing to guarantee a Kurdish state the Kurds would have to reconcile with Assad anyways.

    There is a lot of the usual “Orange man bad” outrage, but I haven’t seen any decent analysis giving some achievable strategic goals for the USA in Syria after the defeat of ISIS.

    @Nullius in Verba: I think after Obama’s farcial policies on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, “junior varsity” ISIS and his support for Irans mullahs/nuclear weapons program depending on Americas protection is a hard sell in any case.

  • Nico

    What to think of this? Right now we can only speculate. There’s a lot of uncertainty, not least due to lack of information. That means: we can’t judge this decision just yet.

    Trump surely has somewhat better information than we do, but, then again, with the U.S. IC constantly trying to manipulate, gaslight, and bring down the President, maybe not!

    So that’s my take: it’s too soon to tell.

    But we can speculate about ways in which this goes.

    Here’s some possibilities and facts:

    – The Turks may get bogged down.

    – The Syrian Kurds have already decided to ally with Assad, and thus, too, Russia, which does possibly lead to Turkey getting bogged down. (Russia, here, is playing all sides, what with the sales of SAMs to Turkey, but still, Assad is much more important to Putin than driving the Turkish wedge in NATO further in. Erdogan surely understands this.)

    – Trump couldn’t directly protect the Kurds against Turkey and keep Turkey-is-a-member-of-NATO appearances. That might have led to a lot of trouble. Kicking a member of NATO out may not be easy, and in this case one of the bigger challenges would be extricating American kit (including nuclear weapons) from Incirlik.

    – Iraqi Kurdistan is safe. Erdogan wouldn’t invade Iraq, as that would pit him against the U.S., while increasing his conflict with Iran.

    – Trump has already tweeted that he’s working with Lindsey Graham and others on drafting economic sanctions against Turkey.

    My speculation: Erdogan’s Syria adventure will be brief, and its end quiet. He’ll keep a small buffer zone under occupation so he can declare victory, with occasional raids on YPG/PKK positions, but mostly there will be no prolonged state of active war as such. That’s my take. I won’t speculate as to economic sanctions, but their specter will be one of the things moving Erdogan to keep from doing what he really wants.

    I hope any sanctions are light to begin with, with the implied threat to make them heavier. If heavy sanctions are imposed before Erdogan has a chance to declare victory, then he’ll be better off staying in for the duration — that could actually be a better outcome, since it could be his downfall, but with all the uncertainties, I wouldn’t count on it.

    That brings me to one more thought re: Trump. The man is clearly very smart, and he may be hoping to steer the situation towards an outcome where Erdogan blinks, in which case Trump himself can declare victory while also demonstrating superior statesmanship while bringing the boys home. In terms of electoral politics, any outcome which can be said to fit that narrative will be a win-win for Trump. There’s a lot of time between now and the election for the situation to evolve towards a better outcome. And there are a lot of levers that Trump can use to steer the situation’s evolution, such as sanctions, sending weapons to the Kurds, etc, so I think it wouldn’t be safe to bet against Trump on this one.

    Of course, in general I’m of the mind that one should not bet against Trump. This is partly biased by my own policy preferences (which evidently align with his well enough). But he’s had a very eventful 2.7 years in office, and he’s done fairly well considering all the traps that have been set for him to fall into. One should not underestimate him.

    By the end of Trumps eight years in office, he will have made some mistakes. I suspect this one won’t be one of those.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . Kicking a member of NATO out may not be easy . . . “

    According to Richard Fernandez, who seldom gets things wrong, it takes unanimity amongst NATO members – including Turkey – to kick Turkey out.

  • Nico

    NV:

    The lesson I worry about, though, is the one it teaches to the victims of the totalitarian butchers in the Middle East. America is not your friend. America is not interested in your freedom, only their own. America will stab you in the back and abandon you to the dictators as soon as supporting you becomes politically inconvenient. So you’re better off knuckling under to the tyrants in future, and refusing to cooperate with the Americans.

    You’re late to this conclusion. Obama taught everyone this lesson when he liquidated Qaddafi after Qaddafi had made a peace deal with Bush. As terrible as Qaddafi was, his deal giving up his centrifuges (which led to the discovery of the A. Q. Kahn nuclear proliferation network and Iran’s nuclear weapons program) in exchange for peace should have been respected.

    Obama also betrayed our Iraqi allies and left them to the Iranian and ISIS wolves.

    In fact, this is a lesson the entire world has learned over and over for the last so many decades. The U.S. always runs out of patience eventually and pulls up stakes. And I wouldn’t really blame the U.S. or its people for this. Others have to do their part instead of letting the U.S. do all the work. Locals too have to do their part. Not every war can be won. Not every peace can be won.

    Still, as betrayals go, Obama’s are something else.

    And as to the Kurds, I’m fairly certain that they’ll end up OK (see my other reply just above).

  • Nico

    bobby:

    . . . Kicking a member of NATO out may not be easy . . .

    According to Richard Fernandez, who seldom gets things wrong, it takes unanimity amongst NATO members – including Turkey – to kick Turkey out.

    Sure, but what the treaty says exactly, and the actual procedure that would be used if it came to it, need not be the same thing.

    If push comes to shove, I think the U.S. should leave NATO and then immediately form a new alliance with the UK and Poland, and maybe a few others. But well before we get there we should quietly withdraw all the nuclear kit from Incirlik.

  • No matter what America does, people scream at us. Depending on the details, it may be different people screaming – but that, too, is a detail.

    No matter what the Middle East does, it’s going to involve people being slaughtered by religious fanatics.

    The best America can do is nothing at all, unless the religious fanatics start doing their slaughter in America. Then the reply should involve bombs and Special Forces. It costs less that way. If they want to be civilized, they can do it themselves. If they ask to be punished, that we can do. But there’s no reason to make it a long-term proposition.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “50 troops. That’s what he removed.”

    The stories I’m reading say he announced the intention last December to remove the 2000 troops they had there, but then only removed about half. The current event is due to the removal of the remaining 1000. Although some are saying that he removed them from the border area, not from Syria entirely. Also, there is a report of the removal of about 50 from the immediate zone of the fighting, which I think is where this is coming from.

    Of course, the point of their presence was symbolic. It’s not that 1000 American troops were proposing to hold off the entire Turkish Army, but the perception was that if Turkey invaded and those American soldiers got killed. America would declare war on Turkey. Their presence was a guarantor of peace.

    But if so it was also a bluff. Turkey said they were going to invade anyway, and America turned tail.

    “The Kurds have been very good partners in the D-ISIS campaign. They were very good fighters on the battlefield. We obviously enabled that as well. But at the same time, we didn’t sign up to fight the Turks on their behalf. And we’ve been very clear with them about that.”

    https://southfront.org/us-secretary-of-defense-we-didnt-sign-up-to-fight-the-turks-on-behalf-of-sdf/

  • Nico

    Tracy Cole:

    I consider the pullout necessary. And yes, if Europe thinks it was a terrible idea, let them put THEIR troops, not NATO troops, into the positions. I don’t like leaving the Kurds happening, but apparently we’ve been doing it for 25 years, via every administration. And if it WAS only 50 troops from the area, NOT doing so was criminal negligence.

    Bingo. When the virtue signalers go into overdrive, but fail to do anything else even when they could, that tells you that theirs is Fake Outrage. Very Fake Outrage.

    MC(L):

    The ABC news report is hilarious side-by-side with that Knob Creek gun range video from 2010. The anchor’s dramatic reading of his lines sounds very, very bloody fake when you find out about the fake footage.

    But onto a more important question: why are the gun ranges near me nowhere near as fun as Knob Creek?!

  • bobby b

    “But well before we get there we should quietly withdraw all the nuclear kit from Incirlik.”

    Gosh, yes. Overdue.

  • bobby b

    Good explanation of the situation here.

  • Nico

    NV:

    Of course, the point of their presence was symbolic. It’s not that 1000 American troops were proposing to hold off the entire Turkish Army, but the perception was that if Turkey invaded and those American soldiers got killed. America would declare war on Turkey. Their presence was a guarantor of peace.

    Do we know what a war between the U.S. and Turkey would look like? The first thing that would happen would be that the Turks would take our troops (and nuclear weapons) in Incirlik hostage.

    But if so it was also a bluff. Turkey said they were going to invade anyway, and America turned tail.

    Trump’s pronouncements make it clear that he’s aware of that perception, and that he’s working to make Erdogan pay a stiff price if he makes Trump look bad.

    Moreover, I think the Kurds will do just fine. Turkey will get bogged down if Erdogan insists, unless Erdogan finds a way to declare victory quickly.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Do we know what a war between the U.S. and Turkey would look like? The first thing that would happen would be that the Turks would take our troops (and nuclear weapons) in Incirlik hostage.”

    Interesting concept. How do you take someone with nuclear weapons hostage?

  • Nico

    NV:

    Do we know what a war between the U.S. and Turkey would look like? The first thing that would happen would be that the Turks would take our troops (and nuclear weapons) in Incirlik hostage.

    Interesting concept. How do you take someone with nuclear weapons hostage?

    It’s not like the U.S. would immediately respond by nuking Ankara.

  • Nullius in Verba

    It’s not like the U.S. would immediately respond by nuking Ankara.

    Why not? What’s the point in having nuclear weapons if you can never use them? What’s the point in having nuclear weapons, or an army for that matter, if even Turkey can walk roughshod all over you and your troops, and you’ll do nothing about it? And they and everyone else knows you won’t?

    They’re only a deterrent if you can convince people you’ll actually use them. Once you get to the stage where everyone knows you won’t, it doesn’t matter how big or expensive your army is, it’s powerless and useless.

    Fundamentally, that’s the reason the Europeans got rid of all their armies. In a political atmosphere where invasions and wars and weapons are politically toxic, you can’t actually use them. So they’re a huge waste of money. Might as well spend the money on something useful.

  • david morris

    The New York Times is scathing about President Trump’s decision……..

    Well I’m shocked…

  • Fraser Orr

    So here is what I don’t understand. American special forces have been there for what, five years? Twenty years in Iraq.
    We are told we are there to work with the locals, help train and defend them.
    So my question is, after all that training, after all the military equipment we give them (usually for free) why the hell can’t they defend themselves?

  • Nico

    NV:

    It’s not like the U.S. would immediately respond by nuking Ankara.

    Why not? What’s the point in having nuclear weapons if you can never use them? What’s the point in having nuclear weapons, or an army for that matter, if even Turkey can walk roughshod all over you and your troops, and you’ll do nothing about it? And they and everyone else knows you won’t?

    They could be used when only one country had them. With only a few countries having them, and everyone able to ascertain who used them when any are used, it’s much harder to actually use them. With many countries having them, plausible deniability may prevent MAD from functioning, thus you might see their actual use again. This is why it’s so important to keep Iran and others from developing nuclear weapons.

    They’re only a deterrent if you can convince people you’ll actually use them. Once you get to the stage where everyone knows you won’t, it doesn’t matter how big or expensive your army is, it’s powerless and useless.

    As to strategic nukes, the best we can hope for is that indeed, they’re never used. When they are used, very many of them will be.

    Tactical nukes are more likely to be used because the specter of strategic nuclear war will still be too much. But still, nuking Ankara would be “strategic”, not “tactical”.

    Fundamentally, that’s the reason the Europeans got rid of all their armies. In a political atmosphere where invasions and wars and weapons are politically toxic, you can’t actually use them. So they’re a huge waste of money. Might as well spend the money on something useful.

    No, they disarmed because they got protection for free from the U.S., and because the biggest old threat (Russia) became a paper tiger. But Europe has ambitions that require a military, and they have concerns other than Russia that also require a military.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So my question is, after all that training, after all the military equipment we give them (usually for free) why the hell can’t they defend themselves?”

    The Turks fly F16s. (Supplied by …) What did we give the Kurds for taking out F16s?

    “No, they disarmed because they got protection for free from the U.S., and because the biggest old threat (Russia) became a paper tiger.”

    Russia is a paper tiger? Err, OK…

    So what do we need nuclear weapons or an army for?

  • Freddo

    Nuclear weapons are to be used when facing an existential threat, not for a bush war in some 3rd grade sandpit. As an aside: Brexit will make Europe even more of a toothless old man. Which is a good thing, because the Obama/Merkel disasters in Ukraine and Libya don’t need to be repeated elsewhere.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    The Turks fly F16s. (Supplied by …) What did we give the Kurds for taking out F16s?

    And is there some reason Kurds can’t fly F-16s? I’d remind you that the Kurdish population is three times larger than that of Israel (though admittedly they don’t all live in the disputed region) and there is a very good reason that neither Turkey nor Syria isn’t invading Israel. (And that reason is not because they love them so much.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “And is there some reason Kurds can’t fly F-16s?”

    Yes. Because they’re a ragtag of rebel hillbilly mountain men who have spent the past few decades being kept down as a powerless oppressed minority under Assad. They were a sufficient infantry against the equally ragtag ISIS, but they’re no match for a modern military force. Israel, by contrast, actually *run* the country they live in, and control their own government.

    Rebellious citizens can’t directly fight a government, with the resources of an entire nation of taxpayers at their disposal. Assad has gassed entire towns for rebelling. And I’m sure nobody has forgotten what Turkey did to the Armenians.

    People act like it’s their choice to submit under the boot of their oppressor, and because they haven’t overthrown the tyrant themselves, they don’t deserve any help. 11,000 Kurds died in the war against ISIS, fighting on the side of the Americans. But they’d have never stood a chance without a government on their side. It’s the same living under any dictatorship.

  • Fred Z

    Found this just now by coincidence on one of my check in once a week blogs.

    https://mydailykona.blogspot.com/2019/10/post-about-kurds.html

    Apparently written by an American soldier with experience of the Kurds, Iraq etc.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    Rebellious citizens can’t directly fight a government, with the resources of an entire nation of taxpayers at their disposal.

    They seem to have access to the resources of the entire nation of American tax payers. And if they are a rag tag band of mountain men (and apparently, according to my facebook page a considerable number of women) then that is entirely the Americans fault. If you saw the ragtag bunch of losers who arrive at Parris Island a few times a year you’d wonder why The Bahamas Military couldn’t successfully carry out an invasion of Florida.

    Now if you ask me why the President withdrew a few hundred troops from Kurdistan, demanding that they defend themselves, without first withdrawing a few tens of thousands of troops from Germany, demanding that the Germans defend themselves, I would certainly concede that you had a valid point.

  • Greg Eiden

    I’m not sure, but I don’t think our military’s main motive in having so many bases and troops overseas is to defend the hosts. That might be in various treaties, but I’m guessing it’s more about exerting our power wherever we want and having eyes n ears everywhere. Having bases in Germany is convenient when we need to kick some butt in the Middle East. All that said, I pray this is a wise move by Trump, a feint within a feint to draw the EU in, as was commented above.

  • staghounds

    2. One of the largest Kurdish cities on earth is Nashville, Tennessee.

    2. There is nothing on earth that President Trump could do that the New York Times would not label a catastrophe.

    3. Nothing between Trieste and Agadir is worth the death of a single GI from East Los Angeles, or spending his hotel maid mother’s tax money.

    4. The New York Times editors and anyone else who wants someone to fight for “the Kurds”, head on over. Or write a check. No one is stopping you.

  • Dalben

    What exactly is the US supposed to do to protect the Kurds?

    Invade Syria, fight our way through Assad controlled territory so we can fight Turkey to keep them out of Syria?

    Or maybe a more sternly worded warning would have stopped them.

  • Dalben

    Also, Congress never authorized us to send any troops to Syria, except by a very strained reading of fighting ISIS as an Al Qaeda successor organization.

    There are a lot of congressmembers running their mouths off about how awful the withdrawal is. Have any of them proposed a bill authorizing sending troops to Syria to protect the Kurds, and fight whoever gets in the way of that, presumably Assad’s forces, Turkey’s forces and maybe Russia?

    Because that’s actually Congress’s job, not the President’s.

  • bobby b

    FWIW, a grunt’s perception of our great allies the Kurds.

    I’ve heard these thoughts echoed by others who were in the region. We’ve let the perception become a sort of “Noble Savage” thing with the Kurds, and there doesn’t appear to be much nobility.

  • Flubber

    Trump swapped military leverage for economic leverage and it seems to be working.

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2019/10/14/trumps-syrian-maneuver-works-president-erdogan-asks-for-negotiations-with-kurds-insyria/

    And NiV, if I wanted to read boring TDS shit, I’d go to the NY Times. Piss off.

  • bobby b

    Here’s another interesting take on the situation.

  • Lee Moore

    The Conservative Tree House (which I do read from time to time, pour echapper les autres) tends to an Orange Man Wonderful approach, as reflexive as the Orange Man Bad approach on view elsewhere.

    So the genius of Trump’s approach, as described, ie allowing Turkey enough rope to hang itself, and pay the cost of uniting its opponents in Syria, is either (a) actual genius unnoticed by the OMB brigade or (b) whistling in the dark.

    But as Flubber notes, there is absolutely no reason to believe the NYT (or the Swamp orthodoxy) either.

    The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect :

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-gell-mann-amnesia-effect-is-as-follows-you

    is real, and terrifying. If it’s in the NYT or on the BBC or anywhere else in the “respectable” media, it might be true. But only as a matter of statistics. It’s much likelier to be drivel. And yet we have a tendency to believe it on authority, despite long experience of drivelitude from “mainstream” souces.

  • Nico

    Fraser:

    Now if you ask me why the President withdrew a few hundred troops from Kurdistan, demanding that they defend themselves, without first withdrawing a few tens of thousands of troops from Germany, demanding that the Germans defend themselves, I would certainly concede that you had a valid point.

    The ones in Germany aren’t fighting, are they, nor are they in an realistic danger (to themselves, of having to make split decisions that might have international consequences and then getting those wrong, etc.). No, they’re there in case they’re needed somewhere that Germany is close enough to.

    @staghounds, @dalben: +1

    @flubber: That was fast! If that works out quickly, then we’d best see no more of this Monday morning quaterbacking before the game is even over (alas no, the Dems/Left/media, RINOs and NeverTrumpers, worrywarts, and even a few commenters here on this blog, will continue to nip at Trump’s heels, faking outrage, and generally beclowning themselves, and they would do that no matter what, so I’m just being very redundant here).

  • Russtovich

    “And NiV, if I wanted to read boring TDS shit, I’d go to the NY Times. Piss off.”

    Ayup.

    You’ve certainly beclowned yourself on this one buds.

    But then, you pretty much skate a thin line most every time you post.*

    Cheers

    * – mainly because you’re good with words is the reason you don’t actually skate over the line most times. 😉

  • Fraser Orr

    Nico
    The ones in Germany aren’t fighting, are they, nor are they in an realistic danger

    No but they are still spending a LOT of money.

    No, they’re there in case they’re needed somewhere that Germany is close enough to.

    You mean like Napoleon’s Grand Army invading Austria, or the Mogol hordes sweeping through the Urals? It is the 21st century, we can deploy armies almost as quickly from their home bases as we can from Central Europe. Not that there is much going on there unless you think we should be fighting the Russians in Crimea.

    Armies in Central Europe are a classic case of fighting the last war. And why exactly can’t the Germans be this supposed lightening quick reaction force? Or the Austrians or the French, or God help us, the Italians? Why does it always fall to the United States and their poor beleaguered tax payer. Remember we are the poorest people on the earth. When you measure our net worth against including the debt obligations our government has run up for us, and that fact that most Americans can’t raise $100 in an emergency, the typical net worth of an American family is negative a quarter of a million dollars.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . even a few commenters here on this blog, will continue to nip at Trump’s heels, faking outrage, and generally beclowning themselves . . . .”

    Personally, having watched Trump and his results, I tend to support him in what has become almost a kneejerk reaction – he pleases me in several ways, and so I’m very attuned to finding ways in which he’s still pleasing me even when the question is still very much up in the air. Like now.

    And yet, I don’t think that I’m beclowning myself by doing so.

    Well, okay, not usually . . .

  • Nico

    @bobby: well, that was not addressed to you 🙂

    Yes, yes, it’s not the case that Trump can do no wrong, but the constant barrage of TDS/NeverTrump/OMB we get is not justified by the facts. What you say about having a knee-jerk reaction of supporting him come what may is also true of myself, and I do try not to fail to see his real mistakes. But for bleep’s sakes, the situation is fluid, and things seem to be moving along lines that either Trump wanted or, if he didn’t want, is just lucky (possibly because sometimes instinctual decisions pay off), and all I see is sky-is-falling stuff. If I want well-thought-out sky-is-falling writing, I’ll go read Paul Mirenghoff over at powerlineblog, though even that sometimes smacks of boy-do-i-want-to-see-omb-failing-so-that-is-what-i-see.

  • RRS

    41 comments –

    And not a word about what the Turkish politicians and their re-aligned military are doing – and WHY !

    There is also the issue of how (use of arabs as shock troops rather than direct Turkish movement).

    Turks are crossing the border of a sovereign nation neighbor with the stated intention to “re-settle” a 20 mile deep cross border area that is not Turkey’s to control.

    So, instead of concern with what “Trump” is doing , or not doing, look at the domestic pressures in Turkey that are factors in these actions.

    Is it not possible that the Turkish politicians have now over-reached?
    Is there a military morale reason why they did not simply roll in with Turkish troops, without shelling and bombardments, unless there was significant resistance?

    Trump is not the issue here – Turkey’s politicians are.

  • Nico

    @Fraser: Indeed, there’s no need for U.S. troops in Europe to defend Europe, and to the extent that European countries can try to limit American freedom of action by denying the U.S. flyover rights, etc., it’s a risk to even stay.

    At least getting stationed in Germany must be a lot more fun than getting stationed in Diego Garcia (do enlistees care? probably, but probably not a lot). And Germany is closer to the ME than bases in the U.S. (but then, so is Diego Garcia). I don’t know what the relative capacities of the various bases is, but I assume that bases in Europe still have some reason to continue existing just based on the value of the installed capacity.

  • Lee Moore

    Nico : I do try not to fail to see [Trump’s] real mistakes

    A sensible policy.

    I think it’s also useful to bear in mind that Trump is a businessman (and not the CEO of a public company with lots of “stakeholders” to pander to.) If not an actual entrepreneur, then towards that end of businessmanniness. And the thing about people like that is that they tend to believe in testing out ideas in battle rather than just on paper.

    So a traditional politico has his think tankery come up with a great battleship of a policy, costing squillions and with a million moving parts. It CANNOT fail. There’s too much invested in it, once it gets launched. Even if it doesn’t work – which it never does – it must still be accompanied by lots of expensive destroyers, and be given a huge amount of expensive air cover, because it CANNOT fail. Hence the idea we absorb from the meejah, that when a government policy does fail so obviously that it cannot be concealed, it’s a TOTAL DISASTER.

    Whereas your Trumpy businessman is willing to invest less, suck it and see, and retreat if it doesn’t work. A write off. Try something else.

    Consequently when Trump tries something and it fails, the Orange Man Bad folk scream “Disaster ! Idiot ! Clueless ! Impeach!” And when he tries something and it works the Orange Man Wonderful folk shout “Very Stable Genius ! Look how he foresaw all those eddies and currents way in advance, and brilliantly navigated through !”

    But that’s seeing it with political media goggles where every policy is a $35 billion battleship. Business goggles just see it as “Oh poo ! That didn’t work.” Or “Great it worked. Let’s reinforce success.”

    A mistake does not have to be a disaster, nor a success a triumph. Each can simply be the result of making reasonable bets, without pretending you can see all the way to the end, and finishing with a portfolio that you hope has more winners than losers.

    Obviously you hope that one of your losers does not involve 50,000 dead people.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Now if you ask me why the President withdrew a few hundred troops from Kurdistan, demanding that they defend themselves, without first withdrawing a few tens of thousands of troops from Germany, demanding that the Germans defend themselves, I would certainly concede that you had a valid point.”

    Or indeed pulling out of NATO, as he threatened.

    But then that goes throughout history. When Germany invaded Poland, should we have said it was Poland’s job to defend themselves? The USA certainly did.

    “Also, Congress never authorized us to send any troops to Syria, except by a very strained reading of fighting ISIS as an Al Qaeda successor organization.”

    Oh, yes. They deserve even more of the blame!

    “I’ve heard these thoughts echoed by others who were in the region. We’ve let the perception become a sort of “Noble Savage” thing with the Kurds, and there doesn’t appear to be much nobility.”

    I’ve heard the same sort of things said about Americans!

    “Trump swapped military leverage for economic leverage and it seems to be working.”

    Good!

    Looks to me like Trump realised he’d screwed up, and fixed it.

    “And NiV, if I wanted to read boring TDS shit, I’d go to the NY Times. Piss off.”

    [Rolls eyes]

    I’ve spent a lot of time defending Trump. But any such defence is worthless if it’s known that you’ll defend him no matter what. It would mean I wasn’t defending him because he’s right (which he often is) but because of mindless tribalism. Which would means that my opinion contained no information at all about whether he’s wrong or right. That’s a good way to lose whatever infuence and respect one’s opinions might conceivably have.

    Trump’s pretty good as a president, but nobody’s infallible.

  • Itellyounothing

    The middle east is a quagmire of unfixable racist hate.

    The West should be pulling out and developing energy sources that don’t require us to take an interest in that place.

    The more we interfere the longer it will take to ever stop killing each other.

    We also need to stop kicking over dictators, the resulting instability kills more than the dictator.

    You can’t force our culture and lifestyle on other countries at the barrel of a gun.

  • bobby b

    Nico
    October 15, 2019 at 4:34 am

    “@bobby: well, that was not addressed to you”

    Yeah, I know. That was more of a “He who is without sin among you . . . ” moment.

  • 41 comments – And not a word about what the Turkish politicians and their re-aligned military are doing – and WHY ! (RRS, October 15, 2019 at 4:39 am

    While I find discussion of Trump’s wisdom or folly, likely success or failure, interesting (because this subject is not one on which we automatically immediately agree with his overt policy goal anyway), I think your comment makes an important point. We are all so propagandised with the PC “whatever happens it’s America’s fault” that we can fall into it even as we despise it. (I’ll speculate about Turkey in a later comment; this respond-to-several one is quite long enough. 🙂 )

    Fraser Orr (October 15, 2019 at 4:14 am), I’d probably rather agree with Nico that even in the 21st century, local bases have their military uses. I also think that the political cost of troops that are shot at greatly exceeds the cost of troops that just cost money. That is not how I’d wish any decision to be made but I’d grant its validity in a cost-based (as opposed to do-the-right-thing-based) analysis.

    And having defended Nico, I’ll now dissent from him:

    Indeed, there’s no need for U.S. troops in Europe to defend Europe, and to the extent that European countries can try to limit American freedom of action by denying the U.S. flyover rights, etc., it’s a risk to even stay. (Nico, October 15, 2019 at 4:39 am)

    Given its emaciated military, I suggest Germany is a lot less likely to threaten US fly-over rights while the US has garrison troops in their country. To me, that’s a reason to stay; it discourages German anti-American posturing from going beyond the verbal.

    Interesting concept. How do you take someone with nuclear weapons hostage?

    It’s not like the U.S. would immediately respond by nuking Ankara.

    Why not? (Nullius in Verba, October 14, 2019 at 9:36 pm)

    I could not agree more. Using it when there is a clear and present danger that’s the only alternative to losing it is the first rule with nuclear weapons. Just as you should not be holding a gun if you are not prepared to fire it so I would feel very grave concern if the officer in charge of Incirlik were not crystal clear that should some Turkish / Islamic mob be about to seize his nuclear weapons then he is to ensure all detonate in locations they will not like. Given events from the Pueblo to Bengazi, I feel no absolute confidence in this being the outcome were the case to arise, but I hope the relevant officer at least knows that not yielding nuclear weapons to Erdogan is policy. The US has had bases in dodgy places since WWII so I trust there is a policy.

  • The middle east is a quagmire of unfixable racist hate. (Itellyounothing, October 15, 2019 at 7:50 am)

    The British Empire ruled pretty well the whole area between the wars with relatively little effort. We should at least be clear in our minds on the difference between “unfixable” and “unfixable with today’s politics”, however unfixable we agree today’s politics are.

    Conversely, you may not be interested in the middle east yet the middle east may remain interested in you. Just as many Germans insisted “the Jews caused the war [WWI]” as the alternative to noticing that Germany caused it, so the middle east will believe that Israel survives through US support because the alternative is to accept that Israel alone can defy the Islamic middle-east despite odds of over 50-1. If the US does as little to help Israel as Jewish financiers ever did to bring on WWI, Islamic terrorists will still try to blow up trade towers – with a nuke if they can get one. Indeed, they may be more likely to try.

  • bobby b

    “Using it when there is a clear and present danger that’s the only alternative to losing it is the first rule with nuclear weapons.”

    All of the nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base are set up on the Permissive Action Link (PAL) that requires a unique 12-digit code in order to arm it. Handlers can also render them inert using a different command disable code, which takes about ten seconds. Granted, at that point they’re still lumps of dirty material that could be torn open and spread about as dirty messes, but there would be no “bomb” component to them. They need to be sent back to the US and re-set with specific equipment and codes, none of which reside in Turkey.

    So, aside from giving Erdogan materials with which to make some dirty bombs (if they mate the material with actual bombs), this wouldn’t be like losing actual nuclear weapons TO Turkey. Turkey wouldn’t end up with them.

    So, perhaps the rule about never losing such weapons to the enemy wouldn’t apply here, at least to the extent that we might see our only option being to detonate them on Turkey?

  • And now “a word about what the Turkish politicians and their re-aligned military are doing – and WHY !” 🙂 – but only a few because the short and honest answer is that Niall Kilmartin is so little informed on this as to know he is little informed on this. I noted above how PC gives us an America’s-fault focus but we also talk more about western politics because we think we know more about western politics. (The mention above of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect was most pertinent.)

    I guess (and that’s the right word for me to use) that Turkey’s army is in poor shape. I would expect Erdogan’s politics to have the same effect as Mussolini’s did on the Italian army, with the coup much exacerbating this. I also think that Erdogan is motivated to give it something to do, on the “devil finds work for idle hands” principle.

    I guess that Erdogan’s policies both exacerbate the PKK problem and press him to seem to solve it. Attacking alleged external bases is a follow-your-nose policy for a leader in such circumstances. The actual practical, as opposed to symbolic, importance of external Kurds to the activities of Turkey’s internal Kurds I do not know. I’d assume they had some.

  • Flubber

    “The Conservative Tree House (which I do read from time to time, pour echapper les autres) tends to an Orange Man Wonderful approach, as reflexive as the Orange Man Bad approach on view elsewhere.”

    Granted. But a President who actually does what he says, and genuinely improves things for ordinary people via increased employment and wages for the lowest paid is something worth celebrating.

    Also compare and contrast. If Trump is so obviously corrupt, why is the impeachment campaign based on such utter bollocks? It turns out the whistleblower was Joe Bidens bag carrier in Ukraine, so one cant imagine why he might be freaking out. The charges being levelled are based on Adam Schiff’s fevered imagined version of the call, rather than you know the actual transcript. And the process itself has to be so bastardised by gutter politics, than the House cant actually hold a vote to even start an impeachment process.

  • Mr Black

    The US teaches its friends and enemies that it cannot be trusted because the US doesn’t win wars anymore. It “pacifies”. The moment they leave, the war is on again, if it ever stopped. They need to kill at least 20% of the fighting age men in a nation to win a war, in some cases a lot more than that. Killing a good number of other people is also not to be underestimated for its psychological impact. Then the war is won and the US can go home without anyone doubting what had occurred and no force in waiting able to rise again for a good long while.

    If you’re not prepared to discuss how many millions of people we have to kill, you’re not prepared to discuss a war. Your opinion is void.

  • bobby b (October 15, 2019 at 9:26 am), if you mean the render-harmless code poisons the material to the point where it would be easier to make a new bomb than to make it detonable, that is interesting. I’m familiar with poisoning a nuclear reactor but had not imagined it viable with the inert matter of a nuclear weapon, so thought high-grade material exploitable by any state possessed of reasonable scientific competence, regardless of the detonator’s subtlety, while a “goes off if defused without the code” mechanism would not inconvenience a suicide bomber.

    By all means educate me on this if you know more. And obviously the precautions you describe would leave a sizeable window of opportunity for counter-action between attackers physically acquiring the weapons and being able to use their contents in any way.

    BTW your 12-digit detonation code gave me a picture of a rota of suicide bombers typing in codes in the basement of a mosque in Manhattan, each one hoping to be the winner of the 72 virgins, while de Blasio celebrates his city’s rich multicultural tolerance by making speeches in the mosque’s porch from time to time. 🙂

  • FWIW, a grunt’s perception of our great allies the Kurds. (bobby b, October 15, 2019 at 1:17 am)

    That is interesting and in parts none too surprising. I’ve read several grunt descriptions of Afghanistanis and Arabs they’ve been required to work with that give a vivid sense of how disgusting a real experience of Islamic culture can be in its original home. But, as the writer says, the Kurds look good and get a better press.

    Some of his points parallel what the Hellenophiles who went to fight to free the Greeks from the Ottoman empire in the 1820s ended up saying about them. It may of course be not too surprising in either case that, in a culture that has known defeat and rule at the hands of islam over the better part of a millennium or more, those who lived to fight another day got very very good at running away. As the Greeks could at least fight Italians a century later in WWII, so the Kurds might improve if they had a state.

    Other points surprised me. It is puzzling that the Kurds are so numerous over the region if, in addition to the “but it was only Kurds who were gassed” attitudes of their more powerful neighbours, there were a Kurdish tendency to starve their own children, especially female children, to death in any emergency. The usual statistical rule of famine is: the men die first, then the children and finally the women (e.g. the Ukraine famine). There can be exceptions, for example in a siege where ruthless centralisation of food supplied prevents “internal desertion”. During the siege of Leningrad, soldiers got higher rations than civilians and it may be that, if you allow for their battle casualties, adult men survived better. I speculate (but very cautiously – the grunt writer was there and I wasn’t) whether what he saw may have been a result of some unusual war condition rather than a statistical truth of peacetime Kurdish society when famine struck (and/or not statistically correct).

  • FWIW, a grunt’s perception of our great allies the Kurds.

    Well it is certainly a perspective, and one that will suit some people’s interests. But I also know people with experience in the area who have very different perspectives. And as the Kurds are highly factional, one needs to be wary of regarding ‘the truth’ about ‘The Kurds’ as being more meaningful than ‘the truth’ about ‘the Europeans’.

  • bobby b

    “And as the Kurds are highly factional, one needs to be wary of regarding ‘the truth’ about ‘The Kurds’ as being more meaningful than ‘the truth’ about ‘the Europeans’.”

    Won’t disagree, but currently in the U.S., we’re getting one picture of “truth” only – that all Kurds are noble doughty Lawrence of Arabia figures fighting for justice and beauty and good. Reading some dissenting views adds more information to the mix.

  • Drunkenson

    American troops in Germany? If you told the Germans that they were on their own and if they believed that the Russians were coming, then they might decide to do something about it. What might that effort look like? One might be forgiven for feeling a little queasy about a German military effort of sufficient size to see off the Slavic hordes, sans supervision. Doubt that US military presence has much to do with the convenience of dropping bombs on various middle easterners.

  • Nico

    NK:

    Europeans regularly deny the U.S. flyover rights, and the U.S. accepts it. I’m pretty sure that having boots in bases in Europe does nothing to moderate Eurosocialist hatred of America.

    As to Incirlik, I don’t know what is the breakdown of nuclear forces there, but I assure you that no American officer there is authorized to use strategic nukes (they have PALs and require the President’s authorization). The U.S. doesn’t have a lot of tactical nukes (which generally are not PAL-protected, but also never mounted on ICBMs/SLBMs either), but even assuming there are some at Incirlik, I very much doubt the base commander or any other officer in charge would decide on their own to use those on Ankara or Incirlik itself, or any part of Turkey. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t (not sure myself), only that they wouldn’t unless previously ordered to by the joint chiefs of staff with the President’s authority, and even then, perhaps couldn’t, since to use them might (almost certainly would) require getting airplanes airborne, and the runways are easy for the Turks to block.

    Really, ever since the USSR got its nukes, and even already before then, it’s been practically impossible for the U.S. to actually use nukes in anger in any scenario other than retaliation. I’m OK with that state of affairs! provided, of course, that other nuclear club members are also so-limited. This is why I vehemently oppose expansion of the nuclear club. That is to say, I’d grudgingly accept a nuclear-armed Japan. I might grudgingly accept a nuclear-armed Brazil. But there’s no way in hell I’ll accept one more middle-eastern nuclear-armed country.

    I trust Brazil’s socialists (they’ll be back) will never use their nukes. I trust Iran/Saudi/Pakistani/Egyptian nukes will get used the moment they feel they have plausible deniability on account of too many such nations having similar nukes to be able to decidedly pin the blame on the guilty party. The more countries are in the club whose governments (current or future) can’t be trusted not to attempt surreptitious first-uses, the more likely it is that there will be such a use.

  • The conflict in Syria was created by the U.S. There’s a certain group of idiots in D.C. and Israel who seem to think destabilizing other nations is appropriate. These particular Kurds have a simple recourse- rejoin with Assad and the Syrian forces, and help defend their own lands from the Turks. Additionally the Russians have pledged support to keep Syria Syrian.

    In terms of sane U.S. foreign policy- the sort that is actually useful to us citizens- this is a great move. We need to be out of these wars. Additionally, all of these actors- who are at various times and places problems for us- are now problems for each other. They can balance each other out.

  • Fraser Orr

    Drunkenson
    One might be forgiven for feeling a little queasy about a German military effort of sufficient size to see off the Slavic hordes, sans supervision.

    And exactly how different would you think the Teutonic response would be compared to the American response? I think the group of people who worry about the rise of Nazism the most would be the German people. The idea that we should subjugate the Germans because of what their grandfathers did seems quite dreadful to me. Would you similarly subjugate the white people of America just in case their historically demonstrated propensity for enslaving black people might rise again?
    Trump has demanded that Merkel increase defense spending, and she has promised to do so in a most patronizing way. The easiest way to get Germany to pay their fair share of defending Europe (remind me again — why is America defending Europe) would be to withdraw all American military personnel. The German military would double within a year.

    @Nico
    As to Incirlik, I don’t know what is the breakdown of nuclear forces there

    It is very limited. I thought they had missiles but they don’t (I think that they were withdrawn as part of the settlement during the Cuban missile crisis). What they do have is about 50 M61 gravity drop variable yield fusion bombs, all fairly small (small being a relative term when talking about H-bombs).

    From what I hear, the US Military is making noises about withdrawing those weapons. Something I think that given the small number and relative portability of the devices (they are only a few hundred pounds each) could be done easily and secretly by airlift to Italy or maybe a carrier (though I don’t think there is a carrier in the Med at the moment).

  • Would you similarly subjugate the white people of America just in case their historically demonstrated propensity for enslaving black people might rise again? (Fraser Orr, October 15, 2019 at 6:06 pm)

    There is a distinction to be made between a culture that of itself defeats and abolishes some past evil (inherited from a time when the world was doing it) and one that is compelled to renounce an evil it re-introduced after the world around it had ceased. If the nazis had held sway over a fourth of their country’s German population, if their treatment of their Jewish minority had been no worse than to continue mediaeval prejudices and restrictions, and if the majority of Germans, without foreign aid, had compelled them to desist, then your analogy would be valid.

    I hope Germany will not return to old paths but have written a post or two noting a concerning lack of sense in how Germans think about avoiding that.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “There is a distinction to be made between a culture that of itself defeats and abolishes some past evil (inherited from a time when the world was doing it) and one that is compelled to renounce an evil it re-introduced after the world around it had ceased.”

    I think the South was compelled by the North, yes?

    And so far as I know, socialism, authoritarianism, invading other countries, and even anti-semitism are all still going strong. The rest of the world hadn’t ceased any of them at the time, nor has it done so even now. Britain certainly didn’t go to war with Germany because Germany regarded the Jews as a problem.

    Take a look at Antifa, in the USA. Antifaschistische Aktion started out in precisely that 1920s German cauldron, and despite being more a set of ideas and ideals than an organisation it hasn’t changed much. They’re socialist, authoritarian, open-borders, and anti-semitic. That’s going on in American culture, right now. The USA doesn’t have a pass.

    It’s not impossible that this time they’ll win. Unlikely, I grant you, but it’s a potentially deadly mistake to think “we’re not like them” when it comes to the danger of this sort of thing. The USA has no magic immunity to it. The potential is an ineradicable element of human nature.

    We’re all vulnerable. Freedom cannot survive without unceasing vigilance and frequent defence. The Germans, at least, are intensely aware of that fact.


    For bonus points – does anyone remember where this photo was taken?

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    There is a distinction to be made between a culture that of itself defeats and abolishes some past evil

    So had my comment referenced dixie whites rather than just american whites you’d be onboard with keeping some yankee military bases in Alabama just in case?

  • Paul Marks

    The key problem is Turkey – Turkey itself.

    In 1979 the “liberals” gave Iran to the Islamists by betraying the Shah.

    And over the last few years the “liberals” have given Turkey to the Islamists by betraying the secular military – many of the secular military officers are now either dead, in prison, or out of the military.

    President Trump inherited a position where both Iran and Turkey (the two great powers of the region for a thousand years) were both in hostile hands.

    The situation is hopeless – unless one of other of these Islamist regimes (Turkey or Iran) falls.

    Certainly a handful of American soldiers in the mountains are not going to change things – they might even have ended up either dead or hostages.

  • The conflict in Syria was created by the U.S.

    Er, no the conflict in Syria was created by what the Assad family and the Alawites who support them need to do to remain in power. I realise that few Americans think anything of import happens anywhere in the world without the USA being the cause of it, but that really isn’t the case.

  • Drunkenson

    Mr Orr. Why the headlong rush to subjugation? It’s a consensual relationship in which both sides benefit. What is not to like?

  • Fraser Orr (October 15, 2019 at 7:43 pm), there are US military bases in southern states – a great many in Texas for example IIRC – as is very proper, these states being part of the US. Is there a US state wholly without US military presence? If a state (California say, strongly Democrat now as it was during the civil war) were to flirt with secession, would not civil war precedents give Trump all the authority he needs to increase that military presence?

    The US, like Germany, is one country and, unlike Germany, handled its issues without outside help. Germany has no bases in the US because Germany did not invade the US to end historical slavery there. The US has bases in Germany because the US invaded Germany to end resurgent slavery and genocide there.

  • Not only do I agree with Perry de Havilland (London) (October 15, 2019 at 8:05 pm), but, I recall that, after eagerly acting against Libya, the US was noticeably reluctant to get involved in Syria. Obama’s red line over gas attacks that, like the people’s flag, turned out to be palest pink in practice, demonstrates the degree to which the US left Syria to stew in its own juice.

  • staghounds

    “the US invaded Germany to end resurgent slavery and genocide there.”

    No it didn’t. The U. S. invaded Germany to put Hitler out of the places he took Germany. If the Germans had stayed out of Poland, Hitler would have died an old man in his bed like Franco, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

  • Myno

    Just in case there are any jihadis reading this astute forum, the phrase “plausible deniability on account of too many such nations having similar nukes to be able to decidedly pin the blame on the guilty party” is misinformed. After a nuke goes off, or better yet if it is used as a dirty bomb, there is ample evidence of the “flavor” of the materials used. It is virtually impossible not to leave a trace of the reactor from which the nuclear materials originated. Each is slightly different, i.e. a fingerprint. So, whosoever actually sets one off, there will be a unique signature that can lead back to the source. Yes, materials can be stolen/sold, and possibly not all reactors (from which the nuclear material is purified) are “known”, but the breadcrumbs are there to be followed. Plausible deniability isn’t.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    there are US military bases in southern states

    Of course, but they are in no sense “yankee” bases, they aren’t there to prevent the re-emergence of a Jefferson Davis. That is the point of this subthread… the idea that we have bases in Germany out of fear that the Germans will rearm and a latter day Hitler will arise.

    I have a crazy idea that you shouldn’t treat the grandchildren as if they had the belief systems of their grandfathers.

  • Nico

    @Myno: I’m aware, but.

    First, reactors leave a mark, but if you’re a nation-state actor with sufficient resources, you can change that mark — I don’t think any nuclear club members are doing this now, so that’s not yet a threat. Second, as the number of reactors and centrifuges (especially those not inspected by the IEA!) goes up, the ability to reach 100% certainty about a particular bomb’s signature goes down. Third, there have been losses of material that, if it fell into bad hands… the source countries wouldn’t want to get nuked for it.

    We currently have… what, five NPT-designated club members, three more that have declared possession and conducted tests to prove it (Pakistan, India, North Korea), at least one as-yet undeclared member (Israel), four countries that used to have them or got close to having them (Canada, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina) (not counting ex-USSR countries), plus Japan and South Korea (who are not members but can be at the drop of a hat), plus Iran that’s almost there, and at least a few more that really want them but aren’t there yet (Saudi, Egypt). That’s going on eighteen current, ex-, and would-be members. There are also nuclear power plants all over the world that could be turned into sources of fuel for weapons, so the potential number of club members is large. When you get to ~20 members, more than a handful of which may by then have managed to evade IEA and other fingerprinting… I suspect plausible deniability becomes.. plausible.

    If we cap membership at the current members + Iran, we can reasonably say no member will have plausible deniability if one of their weapons goes off in a boat off a major harbor, say. If we let the club’s membership grow, then the story gets complicated.

  • Nico

    For those looking for a good argument that Trump screwed up on the Syria thing, there’s this: https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/10/trump-to-incrase-steel-tariffs-on-turkey.php

    It’s too soon to tell. Trump did caution Erdogan about upcoming sanctions, and Mirengoff does not mentioned that nor that Trump has already indicated that the sanctions will be ratcheted up if Turkey persists. That makes Mirengoff either malinformed or dishonest, but what he has to say about the matter is nonetheless relevant: it does look like Trump might be doing all of this by the seat of his pants, as Mirengoff puts it.

    But Trump has been wanting to do this for years, and he’s given advisors much time to do… their job and advise him. He must be informed! Yet he might still be acting alone here. That’s been a theme for his presidency, not least because he’s been shunned by the establishment in the best of cases, so what do people expect? I’d expect more of the same. The establishment will not learn the lesson and will not help him govern, so he’ll continue to govern alone. If it doesn’t work out it won’t be the end of the world, and anyways, he can walk this back. And if the Syria withdrawal works out? The critics won’t learn, and they’ll find some new outrage, but he will crow, and rightly so. Trying this out has little downside for Trump.

    @Lee Moore: I think you’re onto something.

  • Myno

    @Nico: I’ll just say that I hear you. Good points all.

  • there are US military bases in southern states

    Of course, but they are in no sense “yankee” bases, (Fraser Orr, October 15, 2019 at 10:16 pm)

    Neither were the US bases in southern states in 1860 put there to prevent unforeseen secession, still less to help decide the subsequent war. They were all built earlier for defence of the whole country – but when the crisis came, the Penascola defences, Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour, the Harper’s Ferry arsenal (whose machinery the rebels took to Richmond), the Norfolk Navy Yard, Fort Monroe and etc. all played a role.

    Similarly, the US bases in Germany are not today officially there to hold down Germany. That is the historic reason for the presence of foreign bases in Germany but the official position of the US and German governments today is that they are there to assist German and NATO defence.

    US bases on UK territory are the result of our wartime alliance (IIRC following from the original ‘destroyers for bases’ deal from before the US’ entry) – which is why, when we, from courtesy, asked the US for use of the Ascension base during the Falklands war, the US found it politically convenient to point out that we did not need to ask as the relevant agreements meant they could not refuse us.

    By contrast, Germany’s different historical legacy means they have no such right. (Similarly, in 1860 and now, US bases are not ‘yankee’ bases but they are federal bases and the local state governments cannot annexe them.)

    I have a crazy idea that you shouldn’t treat the grandchildren as if they had the belief systems of their grandfathers.

    To do so without a shred of evidence they did would indeed be crazy. However I also have a ‘crazy’ idea: that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to at least risk reliving it in the sense of the old saw – history does not repeat itself but it sometimes rhymes.

    Many a PC-er is a raving racist – despite their verbiage being full of their alleged rejection of racism. The posts I linked to in my first reply give a couple of examples of why I think the Germans not as incapable of rhyming their history as their modern rhetoric claims.

  • Nico (October 16, 2019 at 3:56 am), you are right that Trump has every reason to distrust the US intelligence community, both as regards their intentional motives and as regards their mere competence. He may be obliged to do this “by the seat of his pants” for lack of a US intelligence community whose opinion he can either trust or respect.

  • Nico

    NK: Isn’t it terrible?

    Even without trusting the IC, there would still be large portions of the establishment to help him if only they just wanted to and were trustworthy (spoilers: they aren’t). That includes the State Dept., many think tanks, his national security advisor (whom he’s not been allowed to pick — recall General Flynn was run out on fake charges, and since then Trump has failed to find someone he meshes with), the NSC staff (90% on the other side), the armed forces chiefs of staff, and probably some more groups. All untrustworthy. About 50% of his cabinet is trustworthy, but most of them aren’t qualified to help with issues like this one, and the U.S. does not have a strong cabinet system anyways, so they don’t have to be involved. And the Republican party establishment? it hates him as much as any other group.

    EDIT: And let’s not forget the Allied IC community. They can’t be trusted either. And even peers like BoJo would give him very much the same advice as the establishment, and that wouldn’t lend credence to the establishment so much as make BoJo look captured by it.

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    Similarly, the US bases in Germany are not today officially there to hold down Germany.

    But the genesis of this discussion is “why does the US have bases in Germany.” The suggestion was that it was to hold back putative genetic Teutonic belligerence, so the official purpose is irrelevant to this discussion. The only question is, is this a legitimate point of view?

    To do so without a shred of evidence they did would indeed be crazy. However I also have a ‘crazy’ idea: that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to at least risk reliving it in the sense of the old saw – history does not repeat itself but it sometimes rhymes.

    History does, indeed, repeat itself. but I think there is very little evidence that anyone has ever learned anything from history (which isn’t to say they couldn’t, just that they didn’t. I can only think of a few examples.) But if we are to trade little epigrams of wisdom I’d also remind you that every army trains to fight the last war rather than the next war. Germany presents no risk in any reasonable near future to world peace or Pax Americana, so to spend zillions of dollars there is a historical artifact not a present strategy. We might as well keep a garrison in Mississippi in case the south decides to rise again.

  • Jacob

    Many important points went unmentioned in this long thread:
    1. Do the Kurds in Syria have a right to rule an autonomous enclave protected in perpetuity by American troops? What was the end plan? When and under what circumstances were the GIs to leave?
    2. The PKK/YPG were declared “terrorist organizations” by the US and NATO (and Turkey). Correct?
    3. The “Kurds” are indeed of many factions, fighting among themselves much of the time, including in the autonomous region they control in Iraq.
    4. Turkey accepted (involuntarily) and helps about 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. It’s understandable that they would want to resettle some of them on Syrian territory.
    5. It also has a rebellious Kurdish population within Turkey (the PKK) and would not want the YPG to maintain a supply and refuge base for them across the border.

    6. America has a long history of getting involved in foreign conflicts which it doesn’t fully understand and then she runs away when the going gets tough, as she had no business intervening in the first place. (You hear Ukraine?).

    So, there… Trump seems to have acted at least as reasonably as any other American president. I mean – the problem has no good solution, and America has no vital interest there.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Jacob,

    1. What about freedom and democracy and self-rule?

    2-5. Yeah, the Kurds are a bunch or ornery hillbillies, who have fought for many years against what they see as oppression by whatever means they can. Does that mean they have no rights?

    Think of it as a bit like the American ‘Wild West’ years. The question is not “Are they currently civilised?” but “How can we get them most quickly to a state of civilisation?”

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.– That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    Kurds are fighting for life, liberty, and for a government they can give their consent to. Very American. The phrase “all men are created equal” doesn’t specify or restrict the nationality of the men.

    6. This one’s easy. Turkey, without a UN mandate, just invaded another sovereign state to conduct ethnic cleansing operations against a civilian population, one that had recently been allies supporting the USA as ground troops against ISIS at the cost of more than 10,000 of their own lives. And everybody knew that was exactly what was going to happen as soon as the Americans left.

    Yes, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the USA to push for an exit. Had Trump said: “We’re going to leave in 6 months time, you’ve got until then to negotiate a longer-term alternative, like a UN peacekeeping force” that would have been fine. (Although the possibility of Russia or Iran stepping in to help has to be considered. People remember their friends, and one of the reasons we do this sort of peacekeeping alliance stuff is to win friends and allies and local influence.) But the US left so fast, the commando teams the US sent to extract some of the ISIS terrorists didn’t have time to get there before Turkey invaded.

    So anyway, now ISIS is back on the loose, we’ve got a major rift going on now with a NATO ally, and we’ve announced to any tribal groups in the Middle East who we might in future want to seek alliance with that once we’re done and we’ve stripped back their country’s defences we’ll cheerfully run away and abandon them to die. Not our problem. “No vital interests, y’know.” Suppose we have to go back there soon and deal with Iran, and try to ask the locals for assistance. What’s their answer going to be? I suspect it’s going to be “Not our problem. We have no vital interest helping you.” Or perhaps they’ll wait until we’re surrounded by our enemies before telling us that?

    America’s most vital interests in the Middle East are making friends and alliances, promoting freedom and government-by-consent, and keeping the peace. Because those are the only things that are (some day) going to stop us getting dragged back there again and again and again.

    But yeah, he’s a much better President than the rest of the bunch.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, 2 thumbs up:

    October 15, 2019 at 6:37 pm (& link to “Resisting…“; the Poem goes without saying! *g*)

    October 16, 2019 at 10:16 am

    .

    Nico, very good:

    October 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm +1

    .

    Which is not to deny or disparage the value of the other comments, including some with which I think I disagree (I skipped class the day we went to Georgetown for their course in International Relations).

  • Jacob

    “promoting freedom and government-by-consent”
    Oh, sure, nice words, preach as much as you want, and good luck. The question is: send troops? does it help? how much does it cost in life and money?
    And why the Kurds only? There must be arround 250 different peoples who would like “freedom and government by consent”, not counting 1.3 billion Chinese and Hong Kong people. Sure, go liberate them all, why not, freedom and government-by-consent for all, may it cost what it may.
    (And don’t leave out the Catalan people opressed by Spain!).

  • Jacob

    “Yeah, the Kurds are a bunch or ornery hillbillies, who have fought for many years against what they see as oppression by whatever means they can. Does that mean they have no rights?”

    Rights… rights… there are so many conflicting “rights” claims…. Finally these claims are settled by force. There is no other way.
    You give “rights” to the Kurds and other people there complain that the Kurds opress them. It’s a great mess over there.
    And America can’t settle all claims even if there was any reason for her to expend lives and money for settling by force (her force) those claims… and any justification for her imposing her will on distant peoples.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Oh, sure, nice words”

    What, the Declaration of Independence? Yes, very nice words.

    “And why the Kurds only? There must be arround 250 different peoples who would like “freedom and government by consent”, not counting 1.3 billion Chinese and Hong Kong people.”

    Who said this only applied to the Kurds? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ***all*** men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” Jefferson didn’t say that only *Americans* had been granted these rights. And when you fight for the sort of liberty that the Declaration is talking about, that doesn’t mean “just for Americans”.

    “America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal – to discover and maintain liberty among men.” “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

    America was founded on the ideal of universal liberty. It’s ultimate mission is to spread liberty to the whole world. Not to keep it all for itself. Because it is a foundational belief of America that the right to liberty is universal. It’s not granted by specific governments or constitutions, nor specific to particular nations or groups, it belongs to all humanity. “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Because the only way to beat actively spreading viral beliefs is to spread your own beliefs faster. Because that which will not grow will die.

    I sometimes wonder whether even Americans really understand America.

    That said, of course you can only do it one step at a time, and there are political and economic constraints on how fast you can go. No, we can’t take on China directly just yet. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still our goal, that we just give up on them, either.

    Let’s make America great again.

  • Lloyd Martin Hendaye

    Syria and Turkey will fight to the last American. Despite all manner of globalist spear-shaking, Kurds pursue an autarchic, parochial agenda heavy on revanchist rhetoric.

    As a realpolitik player par excellence, withal a man of peace perceiving not politics but economics as Clausewitz’s “war by other means”, Pres. Trump is dismantling all manner of what Washington called “foreign entanglements” on behalf of domestic American peace-and-prosperity vs. K Street’s crony-socialist death-eaters waving their “nation-building” bloody shirt for half-a-century from 1964.

    Strange how “give peace a chance” morphs to Sieg Heil! when one’s own personal-political interests are at stake.

  • Jacob

    ““We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ***all*** men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” Jefferson didn’t say that only *Americans* had been granted these rights. And when you fight for the sort of liberty that the Declaration is talking about, that doesn’t mean “just for Americans”.

    Yeah, sure….
    It means that they believe that to be true about all people, but it can be implemented, of course, only within the country that the US controls – i.e. within the US. (And even there implementation isn’t easy or guaranteed).

    In no part of the constitution does it say that the US has to conquer all countries of the world in order to implement human rights in them. It is a declaration of abstract ideas, not a blue-print for practical implementation of these ideas.

    Kennedy said:
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-f-kennedy-quotes

    Well, any price… any burden… nice rhetoric, idealistic, but not practical, not possible — that is just poetry… not a course of action.

  • Jacob

    There is another point, also unmentioned in this thread:

    The zone in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, which the Kurds, with the help of America conquered, expelling and destroying ISIL, was not theirs before. It was not populated mostly by Kurds before the civil war in Syria. The Kurds were living in many parts of Syria and in it’s big cities, and they just used the civil war as an opportunity to create a Kurd-ruled enclave in the north, by helping destroy the ISIL – which they couldn’t do by themselves, only with American help.

    The Turks opposed the creation of a Kurdish ruled territory on their border, the Syrians (Assad) also opposed this claiming it was Syrian territory before.
    I don’t know about other peoples who lived in the area, if they were happy to live under Kurdish rule or not.
    So… it’s complicated…

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Another take about USA”

    Yes, I’d heard that the Democrats had a new talking point – that America was not founded on ideals of liberty and universal rights, but on white supremacism, racist slavery, and colonialism. I’m surprised you mention it.

    Yes, I agree that Donald Trump will probably not take any serious damage from this incident. He does appear to have already strong-armed both sides into a truce. So, good. And on most subjects he’s a very good President – I agree with or at least sympathise with his position on lots of things, and he is clearly very intelligent, has an excellent tactical and strageic sense developed in his business dealings, and doesn’t fall for a lot of the nonsense that goes on in politics lately. He has significantly moved the Overton window on a lot of things, and that’s very good. But he’s not infallible, and it’s possible to disagree with him without being a victim of TDS. (And given that the BDS that’s referring to was in large part a reaction to Bush in Iraq and the left’s utterly unhinged hatred for the prospect of America being allowed to get away with overthrowing leftist thugs and tyrants like Saddam, quite ironic.)

    “It means that they believe that to be true about all people, but it can be implemented, of course, only within the country that the US controls – i.e. within the US.”

    There’s no “of course” about it.

    We believe everyone has the same universal human rights, but we’re not going to do anything about it if they’re ‘foreign’?

    You *can* implement it in other countries, you just choose not to. That’s a completely different thing.

    “In no part of the constitution does it say that the US has to conquer all countries of the world in order to implement human rights in them.”

    I wouldn’t suggest that it does. In most places, they can do so by setting an example, by cultural contact, by trade, through their popular films and TV shows expounding on the ideals of the USA, through social pressure, and by anti-corruption laws and trade embargoes. The times when force is appropriate are few and far between, and in any case no more than a holding position to allow other mechanisms time to work. Nobody ever *forced* freedom on somebody else. But you can use force to make a space for freedom to grow on its own, without the tyrants constantly stamping it out of existence.

    “It is a declaration of abstract ideas, not a blue-print for practical implementation of these ideas.”

    Ah. You are suggesting the Declaration is what we would otherwise call a “lie”? How Unpatriotic!

    No, I disagree. It was intended from the start very much as a practical blueprint. But it was a blueprint for the final goal, the end state they were aiming for. Of course, there was a long road still to follow to actually get there. But there is a reason that the founding documents are still taken so seriously in the practical application of American law and policy. It was always intended to be implemented.

    Of course, some people would prefer that it wasn’t.

    “The zone in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, which the Kurds, with the help of America conquered, expelling and destroying ISIL, was not theirs before. It was not populated mostly by Kurds before the civil war in Syria.”

    The same can be said of any country. America belonged to the Amerindian tribes. What is now Israel once belonged to the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And the Romans took it off the Jews, and the Arabs took it off the Christians, and the British took it off the Ottomans, and the Israelis took it off the British. It’s not about who was there first.

    It’s about people’s right to a government they consent to be governed by. A government without such consent has no legitimacy.

  • Jacob

    “Another take about USA”
    I’m not sure you read Conrad Black’s article…

    It’s about people’s right to a government they consent to be governed by. A government without such consent has no legitimacy.

    Nice theory. What do you do when there are about 10 different ethnic groups in some area (northern Syria) and none wants to be ruled by another group (say the Kurds), especially as the Kurds are not very great respecters of the US constitution or human rights (of their fellow Kurds and other minorities).

  • bobby b

    “What do you do when there are about 10 different ethnic groups in some area (northern Syria) and none wants to be ruled by another group (say the Kurds), especially as the Kurds are not very great respecters of the US constitution or human rights (of their fellow Kurds and other minorities).”

    You publicly announce to the strongest amongst them that it’s time to fairly partition, and that if they don’t do it, the European Union army will make them. Then, even though we have a smaller stake in the outcome than the EU, we offer the EU our limited assistance.

  • the European Union army (bobby b, October 21, 2019 at 9:06 am)

    🙂

    Given tales I’ve heard about how what UK troops found when relieving, e.g. Italians, in areas of Afghanistan, I’m not sure how terrified middle-easterners will be of this army. (BTW, I’m rather glad that the force bobby b mentions is ‘pour rire’, else it would more likely be deployed to hold down rebellious Englanders.)

    I suspect bobby b of subtly questioning Nullius’ implication that, having proclaimed the declaration of independence, the US is thereby not independent but on the contrary has obligations to other parts of the world. Bobby does so by implying that the EU, whose founding documents contain any amount of po-faced boilerplate, would then have obligations too, and is closer. (If I have read him wrong, bobby b will doubtless correct me.)

  • bobby b

    “If I have read him wrong, bobby b will doubtless correct me.”

    ( . . . sound of crickets . . . )

    😉

  • Nullius in Verba

    “You publicly announce to the strongest amongst them that it’s time to fairly partition, and that if they don’t do it, the European Union army will make them.”

    Nearly. We say that it’s time to fairly partition, and that if anyone tries to stop them doing so by force, the European Union army will help.

    (Supposing, of course, that the United States of Europe’s army believed in freedom.)

    “I suspect bobby b of subtly questioning Nullius’ implication that, having proclaimed the declaration of independence, the US is thereby not independent but on the contrary has obligations to other parts of the world.”

    If so, it’s a very good question!

    My reply would be that it’s not that America has obligations to other parts of the world, but that anyone who believes in liberty and universal rights has obligations to the principle of universal liberty itself.

    The subtext of the question assumes a nationalist viewpoint: that the boundary lines between “us” and “them” are drawn along national boundaries, between “America” and “The Rest Of The World”. My viewpoint is libertarian: that the lines should be between “people who believe in liberty” and “people who want to take other people’s liberty away”. And I think this is precisely what the Declaration of Independence and many other writings of the founders say they stood for. Their legal jurisdiction is usually confined to the United States – where they have consent to govern. (Although in some circumstances the inhabitants of other nations can ask for our help, and thus grant consent.) But the liberty principle they seek to promote is universal. This should mostly be promoted by peaceful persuasion, but libertarianism isn’t pacifist.

    When it comes to “us” and “them”, national boundaries are orthogonal to the libertarian/authoritarian axis. There are people of my own nationality who are authoritarians and who I consider the enemy. There are libertarians in other nations who I consider my friends, to who I owe my support and sympathy. Nationality is as irrelevant as race, religion, blood group, or tastes in music. It’s an arbitrary, accidental, mutable line on an imaginary map. Only one of infinitely many.

    When they come for the Jews, do I say “But I’m not a Jew” and not speak out? Is that like saying we have “obligations” to the Jews?

  • bobby b

    “My reply would be that it’s not that America has obligations to other parts of the world, but that anyone who believes in liberty and universal rights has obligations to the principle of universal liberty itself.”

    This is a good way to phrase this.

    I think that we all – irrespective of our national documents or statements of purpose – have a personal moral obligation to help others when we can. It’s nice when it’s put forth blatantly and explicitly in a constitution or declaration, but people in nations without such documentation still have that same moral responsibility.

    But there’s no shame in asking why we’re always being told to handle the laboring oar, especially when others, who are offering little assistance, will benefit from our efforts more than we will. In the present case, Erdogan’s sitting on almost 4,000,000 people ready and willing to bolt to EU territory. The migration of those people will severely tax EU countries – even Merkel now admits this – and so they have a huge interest in keeping those people where they are, which means appeasing Erdogan even as they lean on us to oppose him.

    I think Trump’s message to them is, pick a side.

  • Nico

    The idea that the U.S. Declaration of Independence or its Constitution compel the U.S. to sacrifice for the good of other peoples is perverse.

    The U.S. can and does do much to spread liberty, but we cannot possibly force it on peoples who don’t want it, nor can we even force it on rulers who don’t want it. Our track record even trying is pretty bad. For example, Europe is devolving into an EUSSR, so not even our successes in WWII and soon after actually amount to much of anything.

    We lead by example (good and bad; FDR, for example, set a terrible example). It’s on the rest of the world to choose to follow our good examples.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    I think that we all – irrespective of our national documents or statements of purpose – have a personal moral obligation to help others when we can.

    Let me share a story from my youth. When i was still a lad in school I was a fairly religious person. I made money writing and selling video games and I regularly shared a significant amount of that with various charitable causes. Along came 1984 and a dreadful famine in Ethiopia, and along came Bob Geldof and a lot of people with big hair and guitars who produced a concert to try to raise money to help. My neighbor came to me and asked for a donation to Band Aid. I declined since my money was going elsewhere. However, he totally laid into me because “surely you can spare £10, don’t you know how bad the suffering is? You are rich making money off video games, how can you have so little compassion?” Of course he had never donated a single penny of his meager earnings to support any charity, something that I had been doing regularly, in fact had built into my budget for quite a while even though I as still in high school.

    So what is the lesson from this anecdote aside from polishing my own self righteous halo? Well simply this: people may think we have an obligation to help the needy, and perhaps that is true[*], but that quickly translates into people thinking they have the right to take money from you to donate to the causes that THEY think are important, your preferences be damned.

    This principle is at the absolute root of nearly all the left’s political policies, and it is one with which I passionately disagree.

    I think there are some terrible things happening in Kurdistan, but remember perhaps a million children are sold into slavery every year, people are being massacred a few hundred miles south of Arizona, Venezuela has the whole country collapsing, and people are reduced to eating their shoes. There are plenty of places where there is considerable need. It is far from obvious to me that focusing on Kurdistan is particularly high on the list.

    [*] FWIW I am not at all sure we have an OBLIGATION to help the needy. I think it is a good thing to do, and it is certainly a thing that is enjoyable to do, but I am not at all sure where this OBLIGATION comes from. “Duty” and “obligation” are words people use to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser, ++!

  • bobby b

    A. You chose wisely when you were younger. Much of the money raised by Geldof ended up in the pockets of Warlord Mengistu, who used it to buy more arms, wipe out more crops and assets, and forcibly relocate inconvenient populations.

    B. I think I have a moral obligation to help others. But a moral obligation is an obligation that I owe to myself. My own moral obligation doesn’t give anyone else standing to claim they are owed something by me. The list of people for whom I would exert myself goes on for several pages before “the Kurds” appears on it.

    It’s much like welfare. I’ll help people who need help, but the very second they tell me I owe them that help, that it’s my obligation and their asset – that they own me – my attitude changes.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    B. I think I have a moral obligation to help others. But a moral obligation is an obligation that I owe to myself.

    That is a very valuable distinction.

    It’s much like welfare. I’ll help people who need help, but the very second they tell me I owe them that help, that it’s my obligation and their asset – that they own me – my attitude changes.

    Again, this is a very valuable distinction. The transformation of “charity” into “entitlements” is one of the most dreadful things happening in our society. Charity is a beautiful thing. The giver gets the joy of giving, the receiver gets the help from the gift. The receiver may feel a little ashamed to receive, and that is generally speaking a good thing since it is a powerful motivator to become self sufficient. The giver feels good about his gift, he can direct his charity to help the things he cares most about. It is a very positive thing.

    But when it comes entitlements it is all poison — the “giver” feels robbed. His enjoyment of giving is taken from him because it isn’t a gift, it is something that he owes because he is dirty and probably got his wealth illegitimately. He has no control over how the money is used, whether it is used efficiently, or for causes he likes. In fact he can’t even stop it going to causes he hates or finds profoundly evil. The receiver is also similarly damaged. Somehow they think they have the right to live off the wealth of others. It is no longer a point of shame but a point of pride. There is no incentive to be self sufficient, in fact there is an incentive to stay dependent. It robs them of the satisfaction of working to provide for themselves, of being self sufficient, and ultimately after they succeed of paying the generosity of others back by becoming a giver.

    Who wins from “entitlements” over “charity”? Well politicians and bureaucrats. Somehow they are seen as compassionate by spending other people’s money. They direct the money to the things they think will benefit them the most. They demand gratitude from the people they have trapped in entitlements, somehow using someone else’s money to buy their own advantage. Moreover, as the money passes through their sticky little fingers a lot of it is stuck in their own personal pockets. There is no charity so inefficient as government charity.

    When did “charity” become a dirty word?

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