Several weeks ago, President Donald Trump announced that American forces based in Syria were being withdrawn from the country after a long, and somewhat hushed up, intervention in the civil war. Although the American Air Force was deployed to fight ISIS in 2014, American taxpayers were repeatedly told that ‘boots on the ground’ was not an option. However American troops did indeed step onto Syrian soil, not only establishing a presence in the north of the country amongst the Kurds but also in the south of the country in an area known as Al-Tanf.
The week before Trump made this announcement, Bill Kristol, one of the most prominent Neo-Conservatives in America, announced that his publication, The Weekly Standard, was closing. This magazine, which was heavily pro-foreign intervention and pro-mass immigration, is the latest casualty in a shift in the American right wing from Neo-Conservatism towards populism.
Despite Trump promising throughout his election campaign to end the war in Afghanistan, whilst in office he had resisted implementing such a policy up until now. Several weeks ago he ordered US officials to start drawing up plans to bring at least half of the 14,000 American personnel in the country home. This is a massive policy shift, and if you also take into account the withdrawal from Syria and the closing of The Weekly Standard, as well as the resignation of Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defence, clearly big changes are afoot.
The withdrawal from Syria essentially leaves the Kurds at the mercy of Turkey, unless the Syrian Army steps in to help them. The Neo-Conservative pro-interventionists would never have abandoned the Kurds, and so this is the most significant sign yet that Trump is now finally determined to move Washington’s foreign policy in a different direction. The problem for Trump, however, is his own National Security advisor John Bolton, who is doing everything he can do slow down America’s withdrawal from Syria. Bolton’s Israel-first mentality -despite not being Jewish himself- is quite frankly baffling and ultimately dangerous.
If President Trump does successfully build at least some of his border wall, and at the same time withdraws a significant amount of troops from Islamic war zones, it will be a strong demonstration of his ‘America First’ vision. An America that protects its borders first, and then intervenes abroad second; rather than the other way around. If America does become more isolationist in the future, this will force other countries, including those in Europe, to start correctly funding their militaries again. If the rumors are true, and General Mattis did indeed prevent President Trump from partially withdrawing from NATO last summer, then now that he is gone, Trump may try to go down this road again.
The most telling sign of the reason for Trump’s recent action was made evident by a comment he made last week. Iran’s leaders ‘can do what they want’ in Syria, he powerfully asserted. Apart from a break in foreign policy that has lasted decades, this is also a clear phrase of frustration. For two years President Trump has given Israel everything it wanted, including an extensive financial aid package, and in return, he has got absolutely nothing. These comments were unguarded and frank and upset the Israeli lobby and Benjamin Netanyahu. Even for Trump’s bombastic personality, I was surprised he broke rank and said the comment; although of course, I’m glad he did.
He is the first President, whether he realizes it or not, to stand up against the Zionist dominated foreign policy; and his correct view on Iran’s destiny in Syria will force Israel to become less reliant on the US from a military perspective, and consider fighting its own battles. This can only be good for American taxpayers in the future, and from a strategic standpoint, it is also a solid move. With the rise of China, President Obama began shifting America’s military might from the Islamic world to the Far East, a process which Trump will have to continue through necessity alone.
Whether America’s change in approach abroad will last or indeed have a significant impact is yet to be seen; only time will tell. There is already evidence that Trump’s withdrawal in Syria is being slowed down, but at least it is happening to some degree. Whatever happens, the only thing we can be glad for is that Hillary Clinton was not elected, which in turn kept Assad in power, and allowed the Russian Airforce to destroy ISIS in Syria. We dodged a bullet, and sadly there will be many more to evade in the future.