Donald Trump has turned the US into an inept, unreliable ally – and all for the hope of electoral gain
Editorial: Ask the South Koreans, the European Nato members threatened with US withdrawal, Canada and Mexico – who can rely on Trump’s America to stick with them, to pay any price, to bear any burden?
While the now notorious telephone call between Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president about Joe Biden and his son has led to an attempt at impeachment, the phone conversation the US president had with Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey may prove the more momentous for the US, and indeed the world.
In what appears to have been an “unforced error” of geopolitical proportions President Trump gave the green light to Turkey’s invasion – there is no better word for it – of northern Syria.
In doing so, and without much in the way of preparation or consultation with senior figures in the US military or the State Department, let alone allies, Mr Trump has simultaneously: permitted Turkey to annex a large swathe of the territory of a neighbouring sovereign state; betrayed the trust of brave Kurdish allies now at the mercy of a hostile Turkish regime; and virtually guaranteed the release of former Isis fighters and terrorists currently under Kurdish supervision.
President Erdogan and his generals lost no time in bypassing the UN and taking full advantage of Mr Trump’s strategic error, born simply out of a desire, albeit honourable, to “bring our boys (and girls) home”. Indications are – from previous statements by Mr Erdogan – that they have ambitious plans for this part of what used to be independent Syria.
They would like to resettle 3 million mostly Syrian Arab refugees in a place the Kurds regard as a homeland. Indeed, far from the creation of a Kurdish autonomous state across parts of Syria, Turkey and Iraq – as is the dream of the Kurdish people – they will find themselves host to an unwilling Arab population, and in any case be under indefinite Turkish occupation.
As in the case of Northern Cyprus, where Turkish troops first landed in 1974, the de facto annexation of northern Syria and the nascent Kurdistan into Turkey will most likely prove essentially permanent – and be deeply resented.
For Turkey will not be able to suppress the national aspirations of the Kurds, and no amount of brutality will work against them. The Kurds have simply swapped oppression by Bashar al-Assad’s regime for that by Isis and, now, by the authoritarian nationalists of the Erdogan government.
Nor will Turkey know what to do with the gangs of Isis fighters suddenly released to regroup and carry out fresh jihad – directly this time against Turkish forces, as well as against Kurdish forces, depending on where the balance of advantage for Isis happens to lie.
If the track record of Isis is anything to go by, it will vary its tactics and carry its terror campaign into Turkey itself, as well as back into Europe, from where many of the terrorists originated. Turkey’s enemies may seek to assist the terror group, or the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in another regional proxy war. They will not simply pack up and go home.
At a stroke, in the space of one petulant phone call, Donald Trump has succeeded in completing the creation of a zone of war and instability stretching from the Greek border with Turkey down to Yemen and across Iraq, Iran and all the way to Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Pakistani border with India.
President Trump has warned Turkey not to harm his former Kurdish allies and the SDF, who did as much as anyone to help extirpate Isis from its self-proclaimed and previously vast regional “caliphate”. The warnings are unlikely to hold when the fighting starts in earnest.
A whole new Middle Eastern war is about to begin, with all the additional instability it brings. It brings the fighting that much closer to the EU, and for the first time, involves the direct exposure of a Nato member state to a full-scale military operation. When, as is possible, the Turkish forces suffer defeats, and setbacks turn into a rout, what then will Turkey’s Nato allies – including the US and most of the EU nations – do to assist?
The US remains the foundation of the western alliance and the most powerful power on the planet, the only one able to stand up to the likes of Russia and China, and a historical force of freedom and liberation.
However, it has more recently been an inept operator and an unreliable ally. Ask the South Koreans, the European Nato members threatened with US withdrawal, Canada and Mexico – who can rely on Trump’s America to stick with them, to pay any price, to bear any burden?
Despite the loss of American lives and the financial and military commitment to defeat the “axis of evil” and win the wars on terror, mistakes and blunders have left America as more of a loser than winner. President Trump wanted to disentangle America from the Middle East, and keep his campaign pledge to repatriate the US’s scattered forces around the globe. However, he has made matters for his country, let alone those old allies left behind undefended, much, much worse.