Despite President Donald Trump's frequent denials, his administration's Middle Eastern policies are in turmoil.
His bumbling the geopolitical military situation in Syria and his seeming inability to understand his betrayal of the Kurdish people exposed his unfeeling behavior and lack of knowledge. As he oversaw a policy to take toddlers from their mothers at our southern border, this was not surprising.
The delusional, so-called cease-fire in Syria cannot be called a success. It absolutely threw the Kurds (faithful allies of the U.S.) under the bus, and it met goals of the leaders of Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan), Russia (Vladimir Putin), Syria (Bashar al-Assad), and ISIS. Are we now allied with these brutal regimes?
The Kurds are losing their military positions, their homes, their businesses, their schools, their mosques, their hospitals, their farms, and their sense of homeland because of Trump. Can anyone think they would give up without a fight? Why weren’t the Kurds involved in the cease-fire negotiations? Civilians, as well as fighters, will die. How can many thousands of people evacuate an area in five days? Is there a plan for the U.S. to provide the humanitarian help that will be needed?
Erdogan has wanted full control of the homeland of the Kurds for years. Is it not clear his hidden goal is the ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the Kurds, as well as getting their oil and land?
Assad, who bombed his own citizens — men, women, and children — gets to stay in office.
Putin has now replaced American leadership and influence in the Middle East with little risk of conflict with the American armed forces. They are now occupying camps in Syria abandoned by American troops. Our annual military budget is several times that of the Russians’, but they are the ones expanding their European and Middle-Eastern influence — while ours recedes. What is lacking on our side?
Are Republicans going to use Trump’s apparent strategy of deny, deflect, and discredit to deal with continuing issues in the cauldron of the Middle East? Trump has it well-honed, and it works with many. Is Trump’s propaganda technique of endless repetition apparent now? Think, “No collusion, no collusion” and, “No quid pro quo, no quid pro quo." Repeating a big lie does work with some, but with the majority of us it gets tiresome.
Trump's so-called "art of the deal" seems to involve caving in to the other side, especially to dictators. We have lost all credibility in the Middle East and around the world. He has made Israel more vulnerable. Turkey is apparently aligning itself to Russia. Who could have predicted that a NATO ally would do that? How long will other NATO allies stand by our side? The destruction of NATO and American influence are Putin’s goals.
Perhaps the Kurdish debacle will motivate more Republicans to speak out for what is right in the Middle East. Perhaps more Republicans will agree with Sen. Mitt Romney, who has spoken out.
Our own national security can now be questioned. Following World War II, our federal government (regardless of political party) continuously built successful international coalitions and advocated for freedom and democracy. The isolationist “America-first” policy won’t work. If the Middle East explodes because of Trump’s impetuous behavior, it will involve us at an enormous cost in blood and resources. By speaking out and voting, we can prevent this.
Donald E. Maypole of Lake Nebagamon lectured in the Middle East and China and taught in universities in Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Portugal after retiring from the University of Minnesota Duluth.