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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 8-Oct-2019
8-Oct-19 World View -- Turkey poised to invade Syria to set up 'safe zone'

Web Log - October, 2019

8-Oct-19 World View -- Turkey poised to invade Syria to set up 'safe zone'

Donald Trump announces troop withdrawal from Syria

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Turkey poised to invade Syria to set up 'safe zone'

Map showing the buffer zone or safe zone in Syria (Anadolu)
Map showing the buffer zone or safe zone in Syria (Anadolu)

For over a year, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been demanding to invade Syria and set up a "safe zone" or "buffer zone," a strip of land 20 miles wide in northern Syria, along the border with Turkey. The plans have always been blocked by president Donald Trump and by the presence of American troops in the region, which would mean that an invasion by Turkish troops would result in a military clash between two members of Nato.

Erdogan's objectives in setting up the buffer zone include the following:

Erdogan has wanted to put this plan into effect for over a year, but was prevented from doing so by the Trump and the United States. However, in the last couple of months, Erdogan has evidently told Trump that Turkey will go ahead with the invasion whether American troops are present or not.

Donald Trump announces troop withdrawal from Syria

When President Trump last year announced his intention to withdraw US troops from northeast Syria, it drew many protests, and was given as the reason for the resignation of James Mattis as Defense Secretary.

The protests accused Trump of leaving the Kurds to the mercy of Turkey and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who views all Kurds as terrorists. However, it was the Kurds, with the help of American airstrikes, who defeated ISIS and ejected them from their caliphate in Raqqa. The Kurds claim that the Americans promised to stay and protect them from Turkey, but the Americans claim that no such promise was made. The Kurds are now saying that they've been betrayed and "stabbed in the back."

Trump delayed the withdrawal because of the huge controversy, but now has has issued the following statement:

"The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for ... almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN."

Trump's statement follows a meeting last week with Erdogan, and a phone call of Sunday with Erdogan. Erdogan threatened to begin a military invasion of Syria whether the US troops were there or not, and the withdrawal of American troops prevents a confrontation with Turkish troops.

Turkey commits to responsibility for captured ISIS fighters

Erdogan and Trump meet in June
Erdogan and Trump meet in June

Another issue is that the successful Kurdish fight against ISIS resulted in tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners. These ISIS fighters originally came from other countries, especially European countries, to join ISIS. As part of the current agreement, Turkey will take responsibility for all the ISIS fighters held as prisoners.

A White House statement said:

"The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused. The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years."

Trump tweeted:

"When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, ... including capturing thousands of ISIS fighters, mostly from Europe.

But Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA! I said 'NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials.' They ... again said 'NO,' thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the 'sucker,' on NATO, on Trade, on everything."

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who almost always supports Trump, opposed Trump's withdrawal decision.

"The biggest lie being told by the administration [is] that ISIS is defeated. This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos. ... I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view."

Senator Marco Rubio joined Graham and other Republican senators in criticizing Trump's decision.

The Washington debate over a bloodbath in Syria

There is a very passionate debate going on in Washington over this decision, and it's a relief that it's a real debate, not like the impeachment crap.

Some of the criticism is motivated by hatred of Trump by people who don't have a clue who the Kurds are. In some cases, people opposing the withdrawal of troops fighting jihadists in Syria are the same people who, twelve years ago, demanded the withdrawal of troops fighting jihadists in Iraq, because they hated George Bush.

Those who sincerely oppose the decision to withdraw have several reasons.

One reason is that they fear a bloodbath as Turkish forces invade villages occupied by Kurds and their families in northease Syria. Erdogan has said that this fear is unjustified, as Turkish forces have already taken control of of al-Bab and Jarabulus in midwestern Syria, and there was no Kurdish bloodbath.

Another reason is the loss of American credibility from betraying our allies, the Kurds. America also abandoned the Kurds in Iraq when they were attacked by Saddam Hussein.

One of the biggest reasons for concern is the possible resurgence of ISIS. Although the ISIS Caliphate in Raqqa has been eliminated, there are still about 10,000 ISIS fighters being held by the Kurds in a prison camp in the desert, along with tens of thousands of their family members. The ISIS fighters are still being funded, and in the chaos of a clash between Turkish and Kurdish forces, they could regroup and recapture territory.

On Monday, Donald Trump gave the reasons for the withdrawal in several press conferences on Monday.

He pointed out that it was only small pullout. He said that only a few dozen soldiers are being pulled back from observation posts in a region on the border where Turkey will be entering Syria. It's believed that further pullouts will follow later.

Trump also said that he didn't want American troops to be in Syria for ever, and he asked if we can't withdraw troops now, then when can we?

Trump said that the Kurds and the Turks have been fighting for centuries, and it's not up to the Americans to keep them apart forever. The implication is that he expects a clash, and he doesn't want the American forces to be involved. In the past, Trump has made similar remarks about wanting to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but political pressures have prevented him from doing it.

This whole debate gets to the heart of America's role in the world since the end of World War II. As I've discussed many times, president Harry Truman adopted the Truman Doctrine that made America policeman of the world. John F. Kennedy repeated and emphasized this principle in his inauguration speech: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

The justification given for the Truman Doctrine was as follows: It's better to pay a small amount of blood and treasure now to resolve a small clash than to wait and allow the clash to expand into another world war, with massive costs in blood and treasure. This argument was made at a time when people said that if Hitler had been killed in 1935, there would have been no world war or Holocaust.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a completely flawed analysis. World War II and the Holocaust would have occurred with or without Hitler. A small American expenditure in blood and treasure will have no effect whatsoever on whether there is another world war.

So the withdrawal from Syria may have political or legacy implications, but it won't cause or prevent a major war. The withdrawal from Syria is all determined by political pressure, and it's even that political pressures may force Trump to reverse his withdrawal plans for Syria again.


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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Oct-2019) Permanent Link
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