President Donald Trump abandoned our allies, the Kurds, to the ethnic cleansing fury of the Turks, because he wanted to “bring our troops home.” Shortly after that, he announced that he was sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia, adding to the 3,000 sent earlier in October. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, asked Trump: “Is Saudi Arabia home?”
Trump avoided the question by stating that Saudi Arabia was paying for this deployment, not us, and “they pay cash.” Clearly, Trump cannot be “bringing the troops home” and “ending endless wars” by moving troops from one part of the Middle Eastern cauldron to another. Furthermore, if Trump is renting our military to Saudi Arabia because it pays cash, he is effectively creating a volunteer, taxpayer financed mercenary army.
Will he soon be renting our troops to other cash-paying nations around the world to do their “wet work?”
We are entering the abyss, led by a commander-in-chief without a plan, without a mission, without a clue. Our troops are being marched into and out of harm’s way by a dangerously whimsical man, capable of formulating a plan only after he hears the words: “pay in cash.”
Using Trump’s logic: if the Kurds were able to pay cash for our military support, he would have stayed in Syria to protect them rather than cutting and running; if the Kurds had promised Trump real estate and cash for a desert resort, he would have taken betrayal off the table. This is ludicrous, of course, because the Kurds had no cash and no land to sell. Their survival depended on America’s military support and America’s word. They had no equity, so Trump left them to be routed and killed, left with no air force and insufficient artillery to defend themselves against the Turks, a liberated ISIS, and ultimate exploitation by Iran, Syria, and Russia.
Yet, strangely, at the same time, Trump rushed troops and more weaponry to the Saudis. Strategically this makes no sense. The Saudis have not been particularly trustworthy allies to the U.S. for lo these many years. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon were Saudis. Osama bin Laden was the scion of a powerful Saudi family. Saudi cultural values hardly align with ours, given their systemic misogyny, gross violations of civil rights, government controlled press, jailing and killing political enemies, most notably the savage murder of “Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Furthermore, unlike the Kurds, the Saudis are not without military resources. Saudi Arabia boasts the world’s third largest defense budget, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which in 2017 included 75,000 Ground Forces, 13, 500 Navy, 20,000 Air Force, 16,000 Air Defense, and 2,500 Strategic Missile Forces. The U.S. has substantially helped the Saudis assemble this armed might for generations.
Disturbingly the Saudis have used American planes, missiles and bombs to prosecute their air war against Yemen, indiscriminately killing thousands of helpless Yemini civilians in what Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr. called a “kill chain.” The Saudis prefer to keep their boots in the air, not on the ground when they do their killing. Now, they are offering to hold our soldiers’ coats while they assume the Saudi’s defense.
So, why aid them? We know everything is transactional with Trump. His very first state visit was to Saudi Arabia, where the Sheikhs flattered him by projecting his image on the façade of a building, by letting him wield a fancy sabre while he did the sabre dance with them, and by letting him touch their illuminated orb. They also, incidentally, spent millions of dollars at Trump’s New York City and D.C. hotels (“Business Reports”).
Reflecting on Trump’s biography, no one should be surprised that he betrayed the Kurds. He has betrayed every person, every principle he ever espoused when that person or principle no longer served his interest. Loyalty is a one-way street with Trump. One could fill a charnel house with the remains of former (and future) cabinet members and White House staff whose fealty was deemed insufficient.
But Trump’s deepest betrayal is to the soldiers who have been deployed, wounded, and killed — their service and sacrifice devalued by his recklessness and incompetence. Admiral William H. McCraven, former U.S. Special Operations Commander, citing Trump’s venal culpability in this Syrian debacle, wrote: “If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this country join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?”