Do We Owe the Kurds a War?

At first glance, we should be protecting the Kurds from the Turks.  But after fighting in the Middle East for decades, we need to do a deep dive before committing America to another war there.

We don't know what information Donald Trump based his decision on.  If he had intel that Turkey was going in with or without our approval, then removing our troops would be the only way that Trump could ensure we didn't get into a war with Turkey.  Once Turkey killed Americans, it would be hard to avoid a conflict, even if, after the conflict had started and Americans were dying, Americans changed their minds.

Even without that intel, the Turkish leader is a would-be dictator and strongman, hence any brinkmanship by Trump could result in a war.  Dictators are much fonder of wars that unify their countries than are the leaders of truly democratic countries.  The reality is that any pushback against the Turks could have a high probability of getting America into a major conflict with Turkey and possibly Russia.

Given that Turkey is close to Russia both geographically and politically, any U.S. attack on Turkey could end up driving Turkey out of NATO and into an alignment with Russia and Iran.  That could lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia, which would be a very bad thing according to the people who ponder such things.

Not to mention that since Turkey is currently part of NATO, it's conceivable that Europe would side, at least diplomatically, with Turkey to avoid Turkey unleashing millions of refugees on Europe.

While the Kurds have been fighting the good fight, does anyone outside the Beltway think the American people would support hundreds if not thousands of Americans dying and spending trillions of dollars to protect the Kurds against the Turks?

If the American people don't think the Kurds are worth dying for, then a president who got us into a war to protect the Kurds would be going against America's interests.  Iraq has shown us that a war that doesn't result in a stable peace, a war that we withdraw from prematurely, is worse than no war at all in most cases.

We know that the U.S. is sharing intel with the Kurds since we warned them of upcoming Turkish attacks.  We could also be providing them with the weapons they need to fight off the Turks.  Remember the Afghans managed to fight off the Soviet Union, which was much more powerful than Turkey is now, with just intelligence and weapons from the U.S.

Also, we should keep in mind that the Kurds aren't confined to the parts of Syria Turkey might be moving into.  If the net result of Turkey's actions is that the Kurds are restricted to the territory they control in Iraq, that wouldn't be the end of the world.

If Bush's liberation of Iraq taught us anything it's that the people of the Middle East don't think the way we do.  We thought we'd be treated as liberators when we overthrew Saddam, yet we ended up being hated by the very people we'd freed.  The Kurds would be unlikely to be that ungrateful, but the simple reality is that even if we did fight Turkey and win with little in the way of casualties, the consequences could be long-term and severe.

While the neocons who are condemning Trump for this are consistent — they've been for fighting overseas for ages — most of the people who are criticizing Trump are simply attacking him because they attack anything he does.

The same leftists who are saying Trump is a monster for letting down the Kurds applauded Obama running away from Iraq even though it set the stage for the rise of ISIS.  Similarly, when Obama overthrew the government of Libya and then left the country to descend into chaos and terrorism, the voices of the Left found no reason to critique him.

One doesn't have to be an isolationist to argue that America has no obligation to wage a war to defend the Kurds.

While it's true that the Kurds have done a great job fighting ISIS, which has helped America, they fought ISIS not out of charity, but for their own survival.  We don't owe the Kurds anything, given that without U.S. support, the Kurds would still be fighting Saddam.

That doesn't mean it's wrong to fight a war for them against the Turks, but it certainly means we're not morally obligated to do so.

After all, the folks who are condemning Trump over this aren't calling for the U.S. to start a war against China in order to protect the people of Hong Kong or to liberate the million-plus people China has in concentration camps, many of whom are used for involuntary organ donations.

With China taking a more and more imperialistic role in the world backed by a rapidly growing military, can the U.S. afford to spend vast sums of money to protect the Kurds rather than to build up our military to deter Chinese imperialism?

While we all feel the desire to protect the Kurds from the Turks, the simple reality is that anything beyond supplying them with intelligence and the weapons they need to defend themselves is simply a bridge too far, given what the American people want.

Without knowing what tools Trump used to try to dissuade the Turks from attacking the Kurds, we can't know for sure if more could have been done without taking a serious risk that a war would occur, so it's impossible to say at this time if Trump could have done more.

But given the attitude of the American people about wars that don't directly protect them, it's hard to say Trump is being a bad president by not risking another endless war in the Middle East.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

At first glance, we should be protecting the Kurds from the Turks.  But after fighting in the Middle East for decades, we need to do a deep dive before committing America to another war there.

We don't know what information Donald Trump based his decision on.  If he had intel that Turkey was going in with or without our approval, then removing our troops would be the only way that Trump could ensure we didn't get into a war with Turkey.  Once Turkey killed Americans, it would be hard to avoid a conflict, even if, after the conflict had started and Americans were dying, Americans changed their minds.

Even without that intel, the Turkish leader is a would-be dictator and strongman, hence any brinkmanship by Trump could result in a war.  Dictators are much fonder of wars that unify their countries than are the leaders of truly democratic countries.  The reality is that any pushback against the Turks could have a high probability of getting America into a major conflict with Turkey and possibly Russia.

Given that Turkey is close to Russia both geographically and politically, any U.S. attack on Turkey could end up driving Turkey out of NATO and into an alignment with Russia and Iran.  That could lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia, which would be a very bad thing according to the people who ponder such things.

Not to mention that since Turkey is currently part of NATO, it's conceivable that Europe would side, at least diplomatically, with Turkey to avoid Turkey unleashing millions of refugees on Europe.

While the Kurds have been fighting the good fight, does anyone outside the Beltway think the American people would support hundreds if not thousands of Americans dying and spending trillions of dollars to protect the Kurds against the Turks?

If the American people don't think the Kurds are worth dying for, then a president who got us into a war to protect the Kurds would be going against America's interests.  Iraq has shown us that a war that doesn't result in a stable peace, a war that we withdraw from prematurely, is worse than no war at all in most cases.

We know that the U.S. is sharing intel with the Kurds since we warned them of upcoming Turkish attacks.  We could also be providing them with the weapons they need to fight off the Turks.  Remember the Afghans managed to fight off the Soviet Union, which was much more powerful than Turkey is now, with just intelligence and weapons from the U.S.

Also, we should keep in mind that the Kurds aren't confined to the parts of Syria Turkey might be moving into.  If the net result of Turkey's actions is that the Kurds are restricted to the territory they control in Iraq, that wouldn't be the end of the world.

If Bush's liberation of Iraq taught us anything it's that the people of the Middle East don't think the way we do.  We thought we'd be treated as liberators when we overthrew Saddam, yet we ended up being hated by the very people we'd freed.  The Kurds would be unlikely to be that ungrateful, but the simple reality is that even if we did fight Turkey and win with little in the way of casualties, the consequences could be long-term and severe.

While the neocons who are condemning Trump for this are consistent — they've been for fighting overseas for ages — most of the people who are criticizing Trump are simply attacking him because they attack anything he does.

The same leftists who are saying Trump is a monster for letting down the Kurds applauded Obama running away from Iraq even though it set the stage for the rise of ISIS.  Similarly, when Obama overthrew the government of Libya and then left the country to descend into chaos and terrorism, the voices of the Left found no reason to critique him.

One doesn't have to be an isolationist to argue that America has no obligation to wage a war to defend the Kurds.

While it's true that the Kurds have done a great job fighting ISIS, which has helped America, they fought ISIS not out of charity, but for their own survival.  We don't owe the Kurds anything, given that without U.S. support, the Kurds would still be fighting Saddam.

That doesn't mean it's wrong to fight a war for them against the Turks, but it certainly means we're not morally obligated to do so.

After all, the folks who are condemning Trump over this aren't calling for the U.S. to start a war against China in order to protect the people of Hong Kong or to liberate the million-plus people China has in concentration camps, many of whom are used for involuntary organ donations.

With China taking a more and more imperialistic role in the world backed by a rapidly growing military, can the U.S. afford to spend vast sums of money to protect the Kurds rather than to build up our military to deter Chinese imperialism?

While we all feel the desire to protect the Kurds from the Turks, the simple reality is that anything beyond supplying them with intelligence and the weapons they need to defend themselves is simply a bridge too far, given what the American people want.

Without knowing what tools Trump used to try to dissuade the Turks from attacking the Kurds, we can't know for sure if more could have been done without taking a serious risk that a war would occur, so it's impossible to say at this time if Trump could have done more.

But given the attitude of the American people about wars that don't directly protect them, it's hard to say Trump is being a bad president by not risking another endless war in the Middle East.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.