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Trump’s delusions on Syria prove he is a danger to American security | Trudy Rubin

Our republic is endangered by a president who is ill-informed about our Kurdish allies and other critical issues, and is susceptible to the lies of autocrats.

Vice President Mike Pence meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace for talks on the Kurds and Syria, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Ankara, Turkey.
Vice President Mike Pence meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace for talks on the Kurds and Syria, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Ankara, Turkey.Read moreJacquelyn Martin / AP

President Trump’s bizarre behavior on the world stage has become a growing security threat to our country.

His recklessness and immorality, as displayed by his Syria debacle, prove him unfit to protect our republic. His green light for Turkish war crimes against our Kurdish allies has shamed America. And Vice President Pence’s sham “cease-fire” deal with Ankara is already unraveling as Turkey uses it to trap Kurdish fighters and drive more Kurdish civilians out of their homeland.

But Trump’s precipitous Syria withdrawal reveals something even more unnerving than a betrayal of American values – and interests. It reveals a disconnect from reality that should frighten us all.

The president has spouted self-deluded nonsense about the Kurds and about the impact of the Turkish invasion. As Kurds fled for their lives from Turkish attack, Trump crowed, in Texas: “It’s a great day for the Kurds. Great day for civilization.”

His disinterest in facts makes him easy prey for autocrats, whom he vastly prefers to America’s allies. He laps up falsehoods fed him by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the same fervor that he embraces Vladimir Putin’s lies. He calls the war criminal Erdogan “a hell of a leader,” and still hasn’t disinvited him from a scheduled visit to the White House in November.

Convinced of his brilliance, Trump’s blindness is bound to produce more overseas debacles if he is given the chance.

Just consider these examples of his determined ignorance of basic facts.

Who are the Syrian Kurds?

The president has defamed our Kurdish allies as “terrorists” and “communists” and “no angels.” This is clearly language fed to him by Erdogan. If Trump had listened to military briefers, he’d know that the U.S. military considers Kurdish fighters to be important allies, not terrorists (even though they were an offshoot of the Turkish Kurdish rebel group PKK many years ago).

Contrary to Erdogan’s claims, Syrian Kurdish forces didn’t attack Turkey across the Syrian border except when the Turks attacked them. The Syrian Kurdish heartland (which I have visited) has a fascinating system of local governance, with high literacy. The Syrian Kurds espouse equal participation of women as political and military leaders. And they don’t seek an independent state (which Turkey might see as a threat) but rather want regional autonomy within Syria.

Why is Turkey invading?

Again, the president spouts fact-free nonsense, saying this is a battle between Syria and Turkey “over land.” Trump also claims Erdogan will fight ISIS inside Syria.

In reality, Erdogan seeks to drive hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds out of their main cities, which lie within the 20-mile buffer zone he is seizing inside Syria. He then wants to replace the Kurds with Syrian Arab refugees now living inside Turkey, including many Islamist groups. Trump’s “great day for the Kurds” is a huzzah for Turkish ethnic cleansing. Yet he compares this this humanitarian disaster to “two kids [fighting] in a lot.”

» READ MORE: Trump is contributing to Turkish war crimes | Trudy Rubin

As for Turkey fighting ISIS or guarding ISIS prisoners, that is BS. The Turks helped ISIS by letting its fighters cross their border freely, even as the Kurds lost 11,000 men and women while defeating ISIS.

Why were U.S. troops there?

Trump claims they were there to fight “endless wars.” In reality, the opposite is true. U.S. special forces provided support for the Kurds, without whose help the U.S. would have had to send tens of thousands of fighters. The small residual U.S. troop presence was preventing endless war by helping Kurds avoid an ISIS resurgence.

Trump also insists the Turkish invasion “has nothing to do with us” because we are “7,000 miles away.” That thrills his base, but is ridiculous. Osama bin Laden was 7,000 miles away from New York City and the capital of Raqaa 5,600 miles away.

» READ MORE: Trump's Syria debacle is cause for impeachment | Trudy Rubin

The president’s disconnect from reality is deeply troubling to the U.S. military. It was humiliating for them to retreat in such a rushed fashion, having to bomb their headquarters so Russian or Syrian troops wouldn’t seize their weapons. Russian TV is full of jokes about America’s precipitous flight.

U.S. commanders are also distraught at Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish allies and his green light for ethnic cleansing. “If our promises [to allies] are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us?” asked retired Adm. William McRaven, former head of U.S. special operations command, in a scathing New York Times op-ed.

» READ MORE: Mitt Romney was first: will GOP stand up against a lawbreaker in the White House | Trudy Rubin

Men and women of all political persuasions who have served our country “have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own,” wrote McRaven. “They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield.”

If this president doesn’t understand the values of duty and honor, of promises to allies, and faith in America’s principles, “it is time for a new person in the Oval Office,” wrote McRaven.

Given Trump’s disconnect from reality, the sooner the better, before he inflicts more foreign policy wounds.