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SURIANO: Betrayal of Kurdish forces dilutes trust


Column: A RINO's View

It has been a couple of weeks since President Donald J. Trump ordered American troops out of Kurdish areas of Syria. 

Turkey responded by invading the area and committing alleged war crimes against the Kurds. Now, the situation is admittedly complicated, but unfortunately, this is nothing short of a betrayal of our ally and a national shame. 

But first, let me explain the situation in more detail. 

Under former President Barack Obama's administration, the U.S. used Kurdish forces as the ground troops in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They took many casualties in their battle, and many brave Americans died fighting together with them. 

But why does the Turkish state want to fight the Kurds? 

The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East who do not have a nation of their own. Historically, they have been at the mercy of other nations. There are many Kurdish Turks who the Turkish government worry will declare independence if the Kurds get their own state. 

The Turkish government has also been fighting a separatist Kurdish group called the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the European Union (EU) and the U.S. You can see the situation is extremely complicated, especially considering Turkey is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member state.

The U.S. partnered with the Kurdish in Syria to fight ISIS, and that requires fair dealing with them. 

The moral reasons should be obvious. If we partner with someone around the world, we cannot cut and run when the going gets tough. It is a matter of national honor. If the U.S. refuses to help its friends, it is no better than Russia, China or Iran. 

The practical reason for backing the Kurdish are as follows: If countries around the world see we cannot be trusted, then it will be harder for the U.S. to find allies around the world. If the U.S. wants to fight with minimal American boots on the ground, we will need allies who are willing to fight. If countries think we will abandon them at a whim, it will become harder and harder to get allies to do the groundwork.

Now I must move on to Trump’s various defenses of this action, all of which I find wanting. 

Trump was quoted quipping that the Kurds did not help us at Normandy. This is a very silly argument, as of course, Normandy did not have anything to do with the war with ISIS. Trump has not pulled troops from Saudi Arabia, and they too were not fighting on D-Day. That brings me on to the second common defense of Trump's choice. 

You hear a lot about the need to stop fighting “forever wars.” This is silly, as having a small number of troops in a country for a long time is a better option for the safety of our troops than leaving and having to return to fight a large-scale war. 

We saw this play out only recently when Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq, only to have to send them back to deal with ISIS. This argument is especially specious in this case, as the U.S. is not bringing any troops home. It is only moving them to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 

We have not stopped the “forever war,” but instead moved to allow the destruction of our ally.

In a larger sense, the argument about our troops being deployed in the Middle East has always struck me as faulty. The U.S. still has troops in Germany and Japan from World War II. The U.S. still has troops in South Korea. Does this mean that those wars continue at the same level? No, of course not. 

If the U.S. withdraws from places in the Middle East, it is not like peace will be left in their place. Bad actors will move into the void. ISIS, Syria, Russia and Iran will have a greater foothold to gain power and to spread their agendas around the world. 

The U.S. is the most powerful nation on Earth. If we do not use this power, others will use their own power. People who share a similar position on foreign policy are often accused of not caring about the safety of our troops or civilians, but the opposite is the case. 

The world is dangerous. If we do not leave a relatively small number of troops in the Middle East, we will be required to come back with a greater price to pay in blood and treasure.

The bottom line is that the U.S. made a deadly mistake in abandoning the Kurds. If Trump does not want to lose the support of our allies, he would be wise not to repeat it.

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.

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