Donald Trump is not only “dumping” the Kurds, he is also giving precise indications regarding the cornerstones of his foreign policy agenda. Not only as regards Syria, but also all other global crises, directly or indirectly, involving the United States.
The series of tweets with which the head of the White House defined his plan to withdraw troops from Syria sum up what has been repeated over the past years of Trump’s presidency regarding the current US administration’s approach to foreign policy. Washington does not feel the need to confirm its status as the “guardian” of crises around the world; it aims exclusively to protect its own interests in the most rapid and incisive manner possible. It will refuse to be involved in a crisis unless involvement is necessary. And above all, the US wants its allies, even more than its enemies, to understand this. Trump can make a deal with anybody, (as proven by the agreement with Kim Jong-un), just as he can cancel or ignore agreements with long established allies. All based on present-day concrete interests, not on circumstances inherited from the past which the White House considers burdens to get rid of as quickly as possible, whether they be alliances or wars.
The go ahead to Recep Tayyip Erdogan regards only part of the problem: the tip of the iceberg of a number of unresolved scores which Trump wants to settle. The first concerns the war in Syria which he aims to put an end to as quickly as possible. The US president’s move stems from and old promise which, with the 2020 elections coming up, has inevitably become a test bed: withdrawal from a war, as The Donald explained, which has involved American troops for many years now but which he believes no longer serves any purpose. The American leader’s tweets implied that with the downfall of Islamic State there is no longer any reason to remain in Syria. Not only has the Caliphate been “rapidly defeated 100%” but also, as the president himself explained, Europe does not want its foreign fighters back.
A warning to Europe then. That very Europe on which America has imposed tariffs, and which it is harassing with incessant financial requests, strategic warnings regarding China and Iran, and commerce conditions aimed at crippling German trade policy. The war in Syria is, once again, a way to get back at Europe and those European partners which did not bow down to Washington’s requests. And this is evident from the strong protests coming from the Old Continent, both from EU offices and from the chancelleries of the single Member states.
Yet, The Donald is not targeting just Europe. There is a phrase which more than any other helps us understand the message behind the “withdrawal,” which, if it takes place, will not just be the result of a move of a political nature, but also part of a medium to long term vision which could considerably change the American view of globalization. The definition of the Syrian conflict as one of those “endless wars, many of them tribal” is an extremely blunt way of telling all its Middle Eastern and international allies that the Unites States has changed its approach to any type of escalation. A phrase to be read in capital letters: a warning to the world. “We will fight when it is to our benefit, and only fight to win.” Which translates into rapid and extremely efficient operations, mainly driven by purely concrete economic reasons with rapid returns. A turnabout on the American empire’s policy of expansion which stems from the desire to avoid what for some time now has become a real nightmare for American strategists: overstretching. The issue for Trump presents numerous facets. War, especially in the Middle East, makes no sense if it impairs any attempt to reduce military operations abroad, to finding an agreement with Iran, or curtails efforts to work towards China (America’s real strategic rival) and finding a solution to Israel’s ambitions, as well as those of Russia and its Arab partners. All this, added to the desire to avoid any task which undermines his idea of putting America First, means it is necessary to carry out a choice which entails a sacrifice, and that choice falls on the Kurds.
This is no novelty, neither for Trump nor for the United States. Since Donald Trump took his place at the White House it is no mystery that alliances, friendships and hostilities have been changing as rapidly as the president’s tweets. Yet, there is no doubt that there is a line joining all the dots in the United States president’s past, present and future. The series of tweets is only the latest example illustrating his strategy: avoid conflict, jolt allies, ensure US partners do their part instead of leaving it to the US, while at the same time sending a message of unpredictability to a diplomacy anchored to coalitions and systems which neither Trump nor his administration consider definite. After all, Trump’s message following the green light to Erdogan was crystal clear: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done it before!). An open threat.
Many have defined Trump’s move as a “gift” to Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad. It’s hard to say: the march of Turkish troops into northern Syria could unleash Damascus’ rage at seeing part of its territory occupied by enemy forces. Just as we should not underestimate the fact that though, on the one hand, Israel might see it as Assad’s strategy partially coming under attack, on the other, it would be witnessing Erdogan’s leadership gaining ground in the Middle East. But this, again, is Trump. Tireless zeal aimed exclusively at safeguarding the interests of his America’s administration. America (and Trump) First, before anything else.