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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Trump’s choice to pull out of Syria a Christmas gift to all Americans

Trump Defends Syria Decision










It goes without saying at Christmastime, people from around the world talk a lot about the Middle East.

Christmas marks the beginning of Jesus’s history-altering journey through the region and the sites he frequented are considered holy by Christians today. Some of them are located in Syria, which not so coincidentally was all over the news last week, not because of the impending Christmas holiday, unfortunately, but due to President Donald Trump’s announcement concerning United States military forces -- they’ll be withdrawing from the country.

As would be expected the hawkish U.S. foreign policy establishment didn’t take Trump’s bold declaration sitting down. Managing Editor Matt Purple wrote at The American Conservative, “[O]n and on the elite freak-out goes, deaf to any message that contradicts its line. ‘Why didn’t Trump listen to the generals?!’ they wail. Because we have a civilian executive, for one, not a military junta. But let’s re-ask that same question, only slightly expanded: ‘Why doesn’t Trump listen to the military men and women who have fought the wars of the past 17 years?’ Were he to, he would find disdain for overseas nation building—55 percent of active duty troops oppose more of it, according to a Military Times poll from 2016.

“He would hear stories of disillusionment and confusion. He would read laments like that of Dan Grazier, who served in both Fallujah and Afghanistan: ‘Looking back after more than a decade, it is hard to convince even myself that my platoon helped achieve any lasting contribution in a strategic sense.’

“Shouldn’t our poor track record in Afghanistan and Iraq inform our thinking in Syria and lead us to limit the mission? Absolutely not, according to the war pamphleteers, who insist we must blunt a Russia/Iran/Assad axis, which isn’t much of an axis to begin with and which amounts to taking sides in a Muslim sectarian struggle that isn’t any of our business. Also we need to maintain that ‘credibility’ with our allies—funny how that was never an issue when Trump was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal…”

Purple further points out that most of the anti-Trump elites’ Syria pullout angst revolved around Russia and Vladimir Putin. By removing the small contingent of U.S. special forces (2000 total) from Syria, they argue, it’ll empower the Russkies to prop up the hated Assad regime and together they’ll dominate the entire region. It’s difficult for an outside observer (of which I definitely am) to understand exactly how this would take place, but nevertheless the slight change to the oh-so-delicate Syrian status quo has the crème de la crème of DC intelligentsia scampering around in circles like dogs chasing their tails.

Common sense suggests there will be repercussions to Trump’s decision, but what will they be? Will NATO ally Turkey now see it as its long-awaited opportunity to fall on and extinguish the friendly (to the U.S.) Kurds? Will Vlad Putin and his merry band of neo-commies view Syria as a tabula rasa and move in to establish Moscow South in the Holy Land and rule over the territory for hundreds of years? Will the Iranian mullahs double-over with joy that the “Great Satan” is gone and unite with Assad and Hezbollah to gang up on Israel?

Will the broken, bleeding and practically eradicated ISIS now enjoy free rein to reformulate and rise up and defeat the combined power of the Syrian army, Russians, resurgent Iraqi military, Turks, Kurds and anyone else in the area that rejects Sunni extremism (or is bent on revenge for the awful treatment at the hands of the jihadists)? Will Israel’s security suffer because the Syrians will feel unrestrained to concentrate more power in the southern part of the country?

Will the Saudis see an American pullback as a sign that Trump’s promises are solid and rethink their own war in Yemen? What’s Trump been telling them in private?

Maybe all of these things will happen, or maybe none of them will. Syria is just the latest hotspot in a geographic region that’s been at war with itself for thousands of years. Ancient territorial disputes and stark religious incongruities aren’t about to disappear no matter how long the Americans occupy a petite sliver of Syrian soil. It’s as plain as the nose on your face that the Middle Eastern balance of power will sway to-and-fro based on who’s got the most guns, fighters, money and motivation at any given time. And with modern weapons (Russia and Israel as nuclear powers) there’s capability to wipe entire cities off the map if things literally blow up.

These people don’t like each other; the powerful prey on the weak and civilians suffer, many migrating as refugees to relatively stable neighboring countries that will take them -- or move on to Europe. Look at what’s happened since the U.S. kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the early 90’s. Millions of regional casualties, thousands of U.S. military dead and trillions of taxpayers’ money dumped has done little to solve the problems there.

Purple additionally pointed out how (during the 2016 campaign) Trump promised not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors by getting mired in extended unconstitutional (no declaration of war from Congress) ground troop commitments that get Americans killed and cost billions of dollars a day for no tangible benefit. The GOP establishment despised Trump for a number of reasons but perhaps none greater than the New York outsider’s divergence with the neoconservative ruling elites’ notions on the use of U.S. military power to spread “democracy”.

Trump criticized George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, labeled it a “mistake” and elicited gasps of horror from “Jeb!” Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and the other neocons (Lindsey Graham) running on a traditional Bushian Republican foreign policy. These pols all warned of doom and labeled it “isolationism” when Trump suggested he would remove U.S. forces from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. All heartily criticized Obama for “weakening” American foreign policy and promised were they elected, they would restore authority in the region.

Funny how things turnout -- Trump defeated them and their ideology. Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz also argued for a more realistic view of U.S. military commitments abroad, stances that earned scorn from the elites but popularity among the voters themselves.

What’s so hard to understand here? Trump promised to maintain U.S. forces in Syria long enough to defeat ISIS, pledging to “bomb the s--t” out of the jihadists in the process. “Mission accomplished” -- and now Trump’s chosen to call the troops home, a decision that’s engendered howls of protest from the decision-makers but silent praise from the rank and file themselves.

Trump believes his primary duty as commander in chief is to protect the American homeland, which he’s accomplished through boosting defense expenditures along with calls to construct a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. The border crisis is a long way from Damascus -- shouldn’t America’s leaders give greater attention to the more immediate threat to internal security? Even if Russia’s alliance with Syria’s Assad guarantees continued involvement in the Middle East, how will it make a difference elsewhere? Do citizens in Texas and Arizona care more about illegal immigration or American boots on the ground in Syria?

Could anyone credibly argue Russia has expansionist aims in the region? Are they nuts? Russians barely possess the economic strength to protect what they’ve already got -- they’ll secure their Mediterranean naval base (at Tartus, Syria) and sit back and watch as the others get all revved up over territorial and religious disputes.

Time will tell. For now, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis decided he no longer could serve a president with whom he disagrees so heartily and tendered his resignation last week. Both parties’ establishments praised Mattis (not-so-veiled jabs at Trump) and called for a replacement who shares Mattis’s antagonistic relationship with the president.

Bridget Johnson wrote at PJ Media, “After Defense Secretary James Mattis told President Trump he could no longer serve in his cabinet because of sharp policy differences, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to see a Pentagon nominee who thinks like Mattis... McConnell's response to the news zeroed in on Mattis’ argument for American leadership on the global stage.

“’I believe it’s essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter,’ the Senate leader said.

“’So I was sorry to learn that Secretary Mattis, who shares those clear principles, will soon depart the administration. But I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership,’ McConnell added.”

Russia, Russia, Russia. It’s almost as though these people suppose the Russian bear is lurking in every storage closet in the national capital. And our allies? Who’s to say they’re being treated improperly? Isn’t it a matter of opinion? An ally is only useful as long as there’re shared interests on the international stage. It’s not like some grand elitist club where old chums meet to sip expensive booze and chow down on as much caviar as they can stomach.

Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi and creepy “Chucky” Schumer were equally praiseworthy of Mattis and disparaging of Trump after the general’s announcement. Didn’t both of them hate the idea of Mattis being defense secretary when Trump nominated him for the post during the transition?

Of course, two years ago when Trump was busy assembling his administration Democrats and #NeverTrumpers emphatically criticized him for “militarizing” his cabinet and advisory team. These naysayers suggested too many ex-military minds in high places were a bad thing and Trump would be more inclined to act on his naturally aggressive instincts (their beliefs, not reality) to initiate wars and get America further bogged down in places we shouldn’t be.

That’s what all Republicans do, right? Well, it’s true with the Bush/neoconservative “war party” line of thought but definitely not reflective of the Reagan/Trump philosophy which stresses peace through strength and readiness, not endless war through perpetual troop deployments.

None of it came to pass and now most if not all the “generals” are now gone. First there was Michael Flynn, the infamous Obama administration critic who the left targeted from day one as someone completely incompatible with the deep state. Then there was General John Kelly who accepted an appointment to head the Department of Homeland Security but then moved into the Oval Office to serve as Trump’s chief of staff. Kelly is also leaving after about a year and a half in this position. The media made it sound like the Marine general was forced out because of Trump’s dissatisfaction with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, a Kelly protégé.

There was H.R. McMaster (who replaced Flynn), who ended up a goner after his naïve views on Islam clashed with Trump’s desire to protect the country.

It's true -- Trump hires and fires at a dizzying pace by Washington standards. The establishment argues it’s a sign of instability and turmoil in the West Wing but perhaps his personnel practices should be viewed as an ongoing search to find the right people to serve under the circumstances.

Because Trump’s an outsider, he naturally holds a very dissimilar perspective on the way business ought to be conducted in Washington. Many of the “insiders” who originally assumed high positions weren’t used to a different way of doing things and soon found themselves out the proverbial door. The most glaring example was Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who formerly ran the Republican Party and clearly wasn’t up to the job of Making America Great Again.

To many, Trump’s revolving door personnel policy isn’t chaotic or destructive -- it’s refreshing. The president certainly is unique among politicians, but someday conservatives and Republicans will need to choose his replacement.

Conservative firebrand Kurt Schlichter wrote last week at Townhall, “Trump is a hard act to follow. He has a number of unique features that make him who he is – even his flaws can be endearing, and more importantly, effective. But the good news is that this movement was never about one guy. When libs and their Fredocon pets start babbling about a ‘personality cult,’ let them run their dumbness-holes. Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. Our delight at the effectiveness of Donald Trump at battling our useless ruling class is not about the ‘Trump’ part; it’s about the ‘effectiveness’ part.

“Trump is the avatar of our collected resentments, complaints and fury over our betrayal by an elite that was supposed to be running our institutions on our behalf and that is instead running them for its own sordid benefit. Trump was woke to the elite grift of the last few decades because he knew the ruling class from interacting with its members, and he calls those jerks out. We love that. But when he’s gone, we’ll still be here and we’ll still be ticked off. Who will we send out to fight for us?

“In other words, who could be Trump II?”

Schlichter offers several potential Trump successors including Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Dan Crenshaw, Donald Trump Jr. and Ric Grenell -- as well as arguments for or against considering each of them. Noticeably absent from Schlichter’s list was Vice President Mike Pence, the one post-Trump candidate likely to earn Trump’s favor. For sure, whoever ends up being the next Republican nominee will have some big and interesting shoes to fill.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria will certainly draw more than its share of comment even at this calm (from a news standpoint) time of year. Christmas presents a chance to ponder the concept of peace on earth, goodwill towards men -- never more so than in 2018.

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