Crocodile Tears for Kurdistan
Amid the chaos of the Syrian Civil War a chaotic changing of the guard between NATO powers has occurred, with American forces organising a hasty retreat and Turkish forces fighting their way into Northern Syria simultaneously. This Turkish invasion has been greeted with the same tired and inept response from American politicians we have come to expect when an anthropomorphic humanitarian disaster occurs and there is no money or strategic gain to be made in its rectification. First came the storm of tweets and prayers from politicians the world over ready to express in 30 seconds or less their great sympathy for the soon to die innocents of Kurdistan. Once this great sympathy has been sufficiently displayed the serious work government begins in apportioning the blame.
The assignment of culpability in the Syrian civil war requires a certain measure of nuance. Certainly the most guilty of causing of the catastrophe in Northern Syria was the Turkish government which invaded, but such a decision would hardly have been made if conditions were different. When this is taken into consideration many secondary culprits may be found, from the Baathist government of Assad whose policies caused the Syrian civil war to the PKK insurrectionists whose international campaigns of violence attracted Turkey’s ire. However, in politics the blame is not directed to those most responsible for a disaster but towards those whom it is most pragmatic to blame. In American politics this figure is the president with 354 members of congress voting to condemn Trump's troop withdrawal from Syria which facilitated the Turkish invasion. Trump is himself a rather forlorn figure, whose position has rendered attacks against him by fellow politicians a very profitable way to score political points. Notably, while congress mustered the time and energy to condemn Trump, concrete actions such as issuance of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, or punitive measures against Turkey have proved too difficult for congress to pass. While Trump’s actions merit disapproval, such a post-hoc response which ultimately has no effect on the people of Syria demonstrates that despite the flood of congressional crocodile tears it is self interest and not altruism drives the legislative process.
The triumph of pragmatism over idealism has further been demonstrated in the actions of president Trump himself. The presence of US troops in Northern Syria began during a time in which the position of the Assad government was extremely tenuous and the presence of ISIS in the Levant was a threat to regional stability. Eliminating both ISIS and the Assad regime was in the American national interest. This presented the possibility of assisting in the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan within a US friendly revolutionary Syria. In short, there was an almost plausible exit strategy for the American military, but with the Assad regime near victory and an increasingly irredentist Turkish government to the North the situation in North-Eastern Syria has become untenable. This left the US with two options, either remain eternally in Northern Syria hoping that an American presence would deter invasion or to abandon the Kurds. Given that the US no longer had strategic interest in maintaining a presence in Syria after the defeat of ISIS their conformity to realpolitik in choosing to withdraw should surprise no one. In short, the Americans went into Syria based on self interest, left for self interest and are motivated by self interest in the condemnation of that withdrawal. As is usually the case in geopolitics, the newest developments of the Syrian crisis are governed by self interest all the way down.