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Trump reverses US policy in Syria, endorses Turkish military operations.

Before we explore the messy business of whether President Donald Trump should be crowing about current events in northeastern Syria, could we just pause and reflect on whether Republicans who oppose the current president (so-called Never Trumpers) are “human scum” as Mr. Trump tweeted this week? We’re going to declare that a definite “no.” As the online Urban Dictionary so helpfully points out, that’s really a term reserved for movies like “The Terminator” when the robots off innocent civilians with a “Die now, human scum” blast of futuristic firepower. Are we straight? Good, now back to far more serious matters.

No doubt a lot of mouths dropped from Washington to Damascus on Wednesday when President Trump took the podium to brag about a diplomatic victory that is leaving a hefty chunk of Syria in control of Russia and Turkey. While any ceasefire is welcome, particularly if it’s a real one (and there’s still some doubt about that), Turkey’s invasion and the attacks on the Kurds, a group we once considered key allies in the fight against ISIS, is a direct result of the president’s own actions. So here he was bragging about his latest attempt to clean up his own mess. Nice.

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But it’s really been much worse than that. Over and over again, President Trump has produced explanations for his actions that are fundamentally misleading. Americans no doubt remember that it was Mr. Trump’s ill-fated conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The pledge of withdrawal was interpreted rightly or wrongly as an opportunity for Turkish-backed forces to invade. And why did Mr. Trump do such a thing? Lately, he’s making the claim that it fulfills a campaign promise to remove the United States from “endless” wars abroad. But is it? The Trump administration has added 14,000 troops to the Middle East since May, including the 3,000 committed to Saudi Arabia just two weeks ago. That Saudi contingent amounts to three times as many soldiers as the president is removing from northern Syria.

In this frame grab from video provided by Hawar News, ANHA, the Kurdish news agency, residents who are angry over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria hurl potatoes at American military vehicles in the town of Qamishli, northern Syria, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.
In this frame grab from video provided by Hawar News, ANHA, the Kurdish news agency, residents who are angry over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria hurl potatoes at American military vehicles in the town of Qamishli, northern Syria, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP)

So putting the Syrian retreat in the context of a diminished U.S. presence in the region’s hot spots is about as credible as Mr. Trump’s earlier claim that the "job of our military is not to police the world,” as if having 1,000 troops in Syria was anything close to the nation’s real police outposts — Germany, Japan and South Korea which host tens of thousands and have done so for decades and will likely continue for years to come. Certainly, it’s not unreasonable to seek to reduce the U.S. military presence abroad whether that approach is offered under an “America First” mantle or not, but clearly this wasn’t about that. Far more likely, the president just doesn’t care about Syria or the Kurds and what happens next to either. He obviously won’t be losing sleep at night by images of betrayed Kurds throwing rocks and food at departing U.S. troops. And given his longstanding, if misplaced, trust in Vladimir Putin, Russia’s increased presence in the region doesn’t bother him one whit either.

As much as this whole episode has been shocking and disturbing to many Americans (particularly to those service men and women who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Kurdish fighters), President Trump’s positive spin on the “bloodstained sand” is a mind-bender that continues to spell trouble for U.S. credibility abroad. Small wonder many of his usual allies in the conservative media don’t exactly have the president’s back on this one (beyond pointing out that more Kurds died under Barack Obama’s watch, as if that mattered much now). That it’s all been happening as the president faces an impeachment inquiry centered on Ukraine, another diplomatic disaster just a more politically self-serving one, is the cherry on top of this Sundae-from-hell.

So here’s a useful guide as Mr. Trump continues to spout misleading statements. No, the Kurds are not safer today than before this action. No timetable was ever placed on the U.S. military role in the region by Mr. Trumps’ predecessor. Turkey has not stopped its military action in the region. Pretty much nobody else sees this as a U.S. victory. And with the lifting of sanctions, it is, as one observed, “unthinkable” that Turkey will not suffer consequences “for malevolent behavior which was contrary to the interests of the United States and our friends.”

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