The sudden concern for the Kurds is mostly fake

As America woke up and got on Twitter yesterday, there was a lot of this sort of sentiment:

Some moron who subsequently blocked me asked how can Trump talk about loyalty after such “betrayal of the Kurds”. Even Noam Chomsky is writing articles supporting American military intervention overseas, which is the equivalent of a Liverpool fan saying he hopes for a smooth transition at Manchester United following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Kurds. They seem less insane than anyone else fighting in Syria, more organised than anyone trying to manage territory in Iraq, and they are well-disposed towards America and their allies. They’ve been screwed over by the major powers on several occasions, suffered terribly at the hands of Saddam Hussein and ISIS, and been oppressed by the Turks. I would like to see their lot improved, and I will be deeply unhappy if the Turkish army move into Syria and start massacring them. If somehow they find themselves in possession of advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry with which they can inflict heavy losses on their enemies, I’d not be too upset.

However, let’s get realistic here. The US was never in Syria on behalf of the Kurds. US forces on the ground may have formed informal alliances with Kurdish groups, but there was never a US policy of protecting Kurds in Syria, at least that I’m aware of. To begin with, what do people mean when they say America should not abandon “the Kurds”? Do they mean the Kurds in Syria fighting Assad and ISIS? The Kurds in Iraq, who run a peaceful, semi-autonomous region subordinate (in theory) to the government in Baghdad? The Kurds in Turkey? And with whom should the alliance be made? The PKK? The Peshmerga commanders?

I asked a few people on Twitter who the Kurdish leaders were, what were their names. Nobody knew. When people talk of Palestinians we know they fall under the leadership, however flawed, of the PA and Hamas. We know the names of the leaders and what their policies are, and these people regularly attend meetings with the large powers and mediators to discuss their aims. But who represents “the Kurds”? What do they want? If Trump is “betraying an ally” this suggests an alliance was formed and promises given. Okay, but when, and by whom, and with what authority? Did any Kurdish leader meet Trump or a member of his administration? Did they meet any of Obama’s? Nobody who is screaming “betrayal” can answer any of these questions: they want war to continue indefinitely in support of an alliance they can’t describe on behalf of people they know nothing about. If this is what passes for political wisdom in the US these days, it’s little wonder they’ve been neck-deep in unwinnable wars since I left university. Fighting a war used to be a serious undertaking, now it’s something advocated on a whim to spite one’s domestic political opponents.

If Americans want to fight a war on behalf of the Kurds, they need to first come up with a clear strategy. What are the objectives, and over what timelines? And on behalf of which Kurds are they fighting? If they attempted to draw up such a plan, they would see why they need to give the matter a wide berth. The Kurds are not some homogeneous bloc, they are fractured along several lines and were they somehow to get their own state it would likely be completely dysfunctional as the various groups squabble among each other. There’s also the small matter that the most capable Kurds are invariably socialist; I get the impression a lot of Americans don’t know that. If America were to support the Kurds in any meaningful sense it would entail severely distabilising the national government in Iraq, as well as taking on Turkey in a big way. I’m not saying these are necessarily bad things – I’d like to see Turkey booted from NATO and Erdogan put in his place – but they need to be part of an overall strategy which the political classes in Washington simply lack the competence to put together, let alone pull off. Hell, they can’t even agree to protect their own borders.

I’m sure there are US military commanders on the ground in Syria who feel they are betraying local Kurdish forces with whom they’ve built up strong relationships, but this does not make up for a lack of overall strategy. The Kurds might also note that in 2014 when ISIS was at its height and they were facing annihilation on the Turkish border during the Siege of Kobani, the US did and said nothing. What we’re seeing from the American chattering classes are crocodile tears; their concern for the Kurds is opportunism at its very worst.


21 thoughts on “The sudden concern for the Kurds is mostly fake

  1. Normally, I can be quite hawkish, but the Democrats have cured me of most of it, not the Republicans. They’re simply not to be trusted to finish anything. However, I don’t know where that leaves me. There are many days where I just prefer that we get out of there entirely and let them annihilate themselves for the next hundreds of years. Any talk of the West causing thes fault lines in the past 100 years is a complete myth. They will squabble and practice endless clan warfare with or without us. Maybe some day, they’d have their own Westphalia moment (which didn’t even end wars in Europe either).

  2. Seen a bit of the Kurdish community in London. Based on that, reckon this’ll be the time for deploying the tiny violins piano from a great distance.

  3. Not another penny or a single drop of western blood for any of them ever again. We were told fight them there before it happened on our streets, well that didn’t work so why travel, plenty of targets here and a by and large supportive public.

  4. Kurds are absolutely irrelevant. World policeman status is the only thing what keeps America together.
    Like Soviet Union. When we do not defending communism or liberal democracy anymore, wtf we doing at all ???? And after this question, USSR was gone.
    USSR collapse was also started by retreat from Afganistan. After that focus was on the domestic issues and there were so many of them that any reform was impossible and point of no return was passed long time ago.

  5. I’m currently reading Battleworn: The memoir of a combat medic in Afghanistan by Chantelle Taylor and one thing that comes across is the sheer futility of what they were doing. Taking areas and then giving them back without any clear strategic goals. It really was a mess and we shouldn’t have been in there in the first place. Without clear goals from politicians even the best generals can’t come up with a coherent strategy.

    The same will go for Syria if those mithering about the Kurds get their way. What aim do you give the Generals so they can develop a strategy? it will just end up sucking in ever more troops and sending back body bags and broken soldiers, while politicians and political commentators go round in circles spouting cliches.

    The more I read and hear about this issue the more I’m convinced Trump made the announcement the way he did to force the hand of his advisers because they were trying to usurp him. Bolton seems to have been the worst, arguing it as part of an anti Iran strategy. He warned them in April they had six months to sort it out and he waited eight.

  6. They could dismember Iran, Iraq and Syria to form a Kurdistan. And the non-Kurds would be ejected.

    That would give the world TWO Israels to squabble about!

  7. The more I read and hear about this issue the more I’m convinced Trump made the announcement the way he did to force the hand of his advisers because they were trying to usurp him.

    That’s exactly what I’m reading on Twitter now. He gave them time, they tried to roll him, so he pulled the plug. If true, this is on them.

  8. We need more than Trump’s Wall. We need one along middle of Med, Turkish Straits etc north of ME, Bang, Pak, India etc further east becomes difficult.

  9. If any American official in office doesn’t like it that Trump is pulling out then they should do the right thing and resign as Mattis, Hailey and McGurk have done.

    As for the perpetual war lobby madness it is widespread and prevalent across the board, his latest decision would also pitch Trump against his own kind with the many republican war hawks now lining up for a shot at him as well. Lets see what comes out of the woodwork on that score. I really do hope that his decision is fully implemented without any stay behind type arrangement left in place.

    What continually surprises me is that following a generation that included millions of unnecessary deaths of both military and civilians and the trillions of dollars wasted on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria (forget Vietnam for now) some folk actually think that this permanent war like stance is normal, you must question the sanity of a person that thinks this way. Civilized societies and international neighborliness cannot function like this indefinitely.


    Thank You, Trump, for Getting Out of Syria

    The decision will force Israel to reduce its intoxication with power. Relying exclusively on military might has never worked in the long run

    Suddenly, amid the sea of disgust, ridicule and anger that Donald Trump provokes, the U.S. president has made a decision that inspires hope – the withdrawal from Syria. Faced with the chorus of wails from Israel, which of course also includes more than a little schadenfreude directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we have to say thank you to Trump. Thank you for a decision that will ultimately benefit Israel, the United States and the region.

    Not only did the president keep his promise, not only is he continuing his predecessor’s wise policy, but even for Israel, his decision, which has naturally been depicted here as calamitous, bodes well. It will force Israel to stand on its own two feet and reduce both its intoxication with power and its excessive strength, which are extremely destructive for both Israel and the region. This decision promises to bring Israel back down to the ground, at least in Syria. Syria first.

    Israel’s reliance on its enormous military might and its belief that power will solve everything, combined with unreserved American support, hasn’t been good for Israel. We can only hope that the withdrawal from Syria heralds a change in direction for the Americans, not just a hasty, one-time decision.

    If so, Trump will become a true friend of Israel, one who cares a great deal more about its future than everyone who arms and finances it – its false friends. Like a father who decides to end his bear hug of his spoiled child so the child will learn to cope with reality, maybe Trump will free Israel from America’s harmful aegis, a honey trap that has corrupted it to the core.

    Since World War II, U.S. military interventions have usually caused cruel and unnecessary mass bloodshed. Peace and freedom are the declared goals of Washington’s wars, but those wars have never produced these ends. From Korea to Syria, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, these conflicts have left millions of people killed in vain.

  10. This is good:

    A more legitimate concern is the fate of Kurdish militias that have been vital partners in the anti-Islamic State campaign. Trump’s critics rightly point out that his decision in effect abandons the Kurds, and I have some sympathy for this view. But America’s moral obligation to the Kurds is not unlimited, and—rightly or wrongly—the long-term consequences for the United States are unlikely to be significant. The Kurds were not fighting the Islamic State in order to do Uncle Sam a favor; they did it out of their own self-interest. Welcome to the brutal world of international politics: Nations and states cooperate when their interests align, but cooperation often ceases once interests diverge.

    For this reason, withdrawing from Syria will not make other states more reluctant to cooperate with the United States in the future. They will still welcome U.S. support when they understand that it is in America’s interest to help them, and they will (rightly) have doubts about working with the United States when they suspect its interests do not align with theirs. Nor is it clear to me how keeping 2,000 troops in Syria was going to guarantee Kurdish security over the long term, let alone facilitate the Kurdish dream of their own state.

    In calling an end to our involvement in Syria, therefore, Trump did the right thing. (In case any of you are wondering, I found it hard to type that sentence.) But true to form, he has done it in the worst possible way. There seems to have been no advance warning or interagency preparation for the decision, which means that the timing, arrangements, and broader implications have not been gamed out in advance. (It is therefore no surprise that the decision on Syria was soon followed by the announcement that Secretary of Defense James Mattis would be retiring in February). As is typical for him, Trump did not consult with U.S. allies or inform them in advance. Nor did he make any serious effort to use the U.S. presence in Syria to orchestrate a diplomatic process to stabilize the country or use the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal to elicit parallel concessions from others. Like his phony nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un or his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Trump was once again demonstrating the “art of the giveaway”: making unilateral U.S. concessions and getting nothing in return.

  11. The author was doing well until here:

    As is typical for him, Trump did not consult with U.S. allies or inform them in advance. Nor did he make any serious effort to use the U.S. presence in Syria to orchestrate a diplomatic process to stabilize the country or use the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal to elicit parallel concessions from others.

    What US allies? Did the US consult with them when they went in to Syria?

    And “orchestrate a diplomatic process to stabilize the country”? Seriously? With whom? And what concessions does the author think Trump could have elicited from Russia, Iran, and Assad? Delusional nonsense.

  12. Turkey is America’s second oldest ally after Britain, having joined the UN in February 1945 when the UN was an ant-fascist military alliance. (Vichy France was allied with Germany.) Turkey is also the lynch pin of the Middle East, controlling the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Without Turkey the US’ position in the Middle East is untenable.

    The Kurds, all of them, are the mortal enemies of the Turks, and as useful as they have been, they are expendable. We simply cannot promote Kurdish interests at the expense of Turkish interests.

    It is being reported today that Saudi troops will replace American troops in Syria. Considering MbS’ likely involvement in the Khashoggi murder, this is yet another poke in the eye for Erdogan and Turkey. It is also a recipe for disaster. What is America to do if two of its allies go to war with each other?

  13. Let ’em fight so long as we keep out of it. And –if needed–stand by to grab the Saudi’s oil supplies. Purely as a temporary measure of course.

    We owe none of them a thing and should not be involved –apart from securing oil interests. We should buy peacefully unless and until their antics make that impossible.

  14. They will not fight each other. There is a very strong common sense union forming in the Middle East. The root cause of all those wars was forming security cordon around Israel.
    20 years ago ,average Arab did not gave a shit about Palestinians but now man from the street agrees that for the safety of entire region, Israel must be gone.
    Common enemy unites….:D

  15. @Bardon

    The only line you needed to quote from that article was this one:

    Haaretz has swung hard-left over the last 25 years. They are the local Israeli equivalent of the “Refugees Welcome” leftists in Europe, who believe that all the problems with the current crop of refugees will be solved if only we add more refugees, or the Remainers who think a European army is a good idea, and we should also have European Citizenship to replace obsolete British citizenship. You can feel the palpable joy the article exudes at the thought that Trump’s decision might weaken Israel. It’s garbage analysis.


    The “very strong common sense union” forming in the Middle East is Israel + Sunnis vs. Iran + Hezbollah. Pretty much exactly the opposite of what you said.

  16. This hysterical and panicked headline from the same mainstream press might be more appropriate then?


    Trump’s Withdrawal From Syria Is a Slap in the Face to Netanyahu

    Trump gave Netanyahu reward and gestures that cost him nothing. In exchange, the president received an obedient prime minister who is no longer capable of opposing a move that is potentially disastrous for Israel

  17. There was a good article in the spectator (it appears there are some) written back at the time of the Helsinki summit between Trump and Poutine which predicted exactly what is happening now. The morons are the ones thinking that the withdrawal is a spur of the moment thing. It isn’t, and again, democrats/leftists/TDS sufferers are proving to be the idiots that they undoubtedly are.

    As Audiard wrote: “Les cons ca osent tout, c’est d’ailleurs a ca qu’on les reconnait”.

  18. @Bardon

    Hahaha. Equally hysterical, yet utterly contradictory to the first article.

    That said, there’s actually a reason for the difference. One is an official Ha’aretz editorial. The other is an opinion piece by Gideon Levy, who never met a piece of Arab propaganda he didn’t like. This is what constitutes diversity of thought at Ha’aretz.

  19. @Jonathan

    Okay so the pendulum swings, how about this one for the midpoint and in defence of our Kurdish brothers?


    Trump’s Withdrawal From Syria Is a ‘Disaster, Shame and Moral Crime’

    Lévy — arguably the most outspoken Western supporter of the Kurdish cause — predicted that the US withdrawal from Syria would be “devastating for the security of the region.”

    Wrote Lévy: “[F]or the Kurds who have been our valiant allies and shed their blood in combat against the barbarity of ISIS, it is a source of deep distress. This retreat is ‘America First’ at its worst. It offers the region, on a silver plate, to Iran, Russia and Turkey.”

  20. The more I read and hear about this issue the more I’m convinced Trump made the announcement the way he did to force the hand of his advisers because they were trying to usurp him.

    Your faith is touching. Perplexing, but touching nonetheless…

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