As President Trump continues to implement his policy of extricating America from its Middles Eastern entanglements, the emerging perception of it in the region is that of a weak and unreliable ally
The Kurds in Northeast Syria were key to the American defeat of ISIS, a defeat much exploited for political purposes by president Trump. In return, the Kurds were hoping for an umbrella of political protection from the US against their arch-enemy, the Turkish president Erdogan. This protection, they were hoping, would be maintained by the presence of one thousand or so American troops in the Syrian part of the historical Kurdish homeland. This force would serve as a tripwire, similarly to the American forces in Korea, Japan, Germany, and soon Poland, it would not be large enough to fight off a Turkish invasion, but it would make such an invasion unpalatable nonetheless.
Now Israeli media is reporting that after a phone call between presidents Trump and Erdogan last night, Trump has ordered the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Syrian Kurdistan, thus green-lighting a major anti-Kurd operation by Erdogan’s military, an operation that is likely to lead to slaughter despite Erdogan’s undoubted assurances to the contrary. The troop withdrawal was confirmed via a rare early morning communique from White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham, a press release that explicitly avoided mentioning the Kurds altogether.
This action reinforced in Israel the notion that America under president Trump is an unreliable ally, a “cane of broken reeds”, a turn of tongue that was coined by the Prophet Jeremiah pertaining to the declining empire of ancient Egypt, traditionally Judea’s hegemon and protector. Many Israelis have noted that president Trump’s famous “friendship” with Israel consists of nothing but empty gestures: a trip to the Western Wall, a new plaque on an old building in Jerusalem, and not much more than that.
In fairness, this analysis is rather shallow. Trump’s administration has provided Israel with all the F-35 stealth fighter jets it had wanted and they were already put to use with great effect in raids against Iranian interests in Iraq and in Syria, raids that were also sanctioned by the Trump administration. In the all-important Palestinian arena, Trump has been a staunch supporter of Israel both in the UN and on the ground in Israel.
Today is the eve of the most important day in the Jewish religious calendar and also the most traumatic day in the seven-decade long existence of the modern Jewish state. The combined attack on the Day of Atonement in 1973, now 46 years ago, an attack that Israel could not meet with fully mobilized reserves because the Nixon-Kissinger administration and that was only just thwarted by Israel due to a massive airlift of American military materiel in the second half of the conflict left an indelible mark on the consciousness of every Israeli. The fact remains that America was quite willing to see Israel bleed and even destroyed and was only coaxed to help when Israel made the very real threat of using its nuclear arsenal to prevent its destruction.
Since then America won the Cold War and through a series of successful military operations and the willingness to use force on scales both small (Grenada, Nicaragua) and not so small (Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan) it has rebuilt its credibility as a leading military power, a credibility that was destroyed in the Korean and Vietnamese engagements. This world stage street-cred paid for with the blood of tens of thousands of Americans is now being systematically dismembered by president Trump’s isolationists policies, policies that are in full accord with the wishes of his voter base.
When a combatant does not respond to very real and painful attacks against his close allies as well as against himself directly as has been the case when the US refrained from responding to the Iranian attacks against the Saudi oil installations and the downing of its own large and expensive unmanned aircraft, when said combatant leaves the battlefield after having his allies fight his battles under the auspices of false promises that evidently were never intended to be kept, when the battlefield being left is of the utmost importance to world peace and stability, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: said combatant is weak and holds an even weaker hand than his weakness makes apparent.
Americans who support Trump in his isolationism are deluded on many fronts, chief among them the decoupling of their economic success and their ability and willingness to constantly and consistently project military might across the globe. There can be no country that is the richest, which is also not the most militarily powerful. This military prowess must be demonstrated, daily, not by talk of “BLASTING” Trump-style, but precisely by the willingness to station military personnel and materiel in global hotspots and allow this military presence the freedom to be active rather than passive. Until when? Until such time as America stops wanting to be the richest and most powerful country in the world. It looks like that time is now.
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