Editorial | Trump Just Created a Moral and Strategic Disaster – The New York Times

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The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditCreditIllustration by Nicholas Konrad; photograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The roughly 1,000 American troops stationed in Syria find themselves in an impossible situation, by order of their commander in chief. They are now caught between the Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad, an unrepentant war criminal who has used poison gas against his own people, and the Turkish military — a NATO ally — which has already rained down artillery shells near positions held by American soldiers.

When Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise to end “endless wars,” it was always unspoken that doing so would mean to some extent abandoning allies, like the Kurdish forces that helped devastate the Islamic State, or the Afghan government in Kabul. But surely putting America first never meant leaving American soldiers behind. The Times reported Monday that removing the American troops from Syria may require an airlift, a move that may also be needed to relocate the estimated 50 American tactical nuclear weapons housed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Dozens of civilians and combatants were killed in fighting, according to the BBC, when Turkey struck south into Kurdish-held areas of Syria over the weekend, an operation that was greenlit by the White House. Islamic State fighters and their family members, who had been held in a detention camp by Kurdish forces, have scattered to the winds, The Times reports. The Kurds, under fire from Turkish forces, quickly allied with the Syrian government, which sent its own Russian-backed army north.

One thousand decisions led the United States to find itself refereeing the border between Syria and Turkey, but only one decision — made abruptly just over a week ago by President Trump after a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — led to the chaos and bloodletting that has gushed across the region in the past few days.”

Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — American commandos were working alongside Kurdish forces at an outpost in eastern Syria last year when they were attacked by columns of Syrian government tanks and hundreds of troops, including Russian mercenaries. In the next hours, the Americans threw the Pentagon’s arsenal at them, including B-52 strategic bombers. The attack was stopped.

That operation, in the middle of the American-led campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, showed the extent to which the United States military was willing to protect the Syrian Kurds, its main ally on the ground.

But now, with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies.

“They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

Military Leaders Fear They’ve Seen This Before. It Ended in the Iraq War. – By Helene Cooper – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The last time the United States abandoned allies in the Middle East, military officials say, it helped lead to the Iraq war.

Now, almost 30 years later, President Trump has pulled American special forces and support troops away from Kurdish allies in northern Syria, easing the way for Turkey’s promised offensive, which began on Wednesday.

It is too soon to say with any certainty where Mr. Trump’s abandonment of the Kurdish fighters who did the heavy lifting in the fight against the Islamic State will lead. But already, anguished American military and national security officials are sounding alarms that clearing the way for Turkey to bomb the Kurds could have long-term repercussions, just as the desertion of allies did then.

“In the course of American history, when we have stuck with our allies in troubling circumstances, from the U.K. and Australia under attack in WWII to South Korea in the Korean War, things tend to work out to our benefit,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for Europe. “When we walk away from loyal allies, as we did in Vietnam and are now threatening to do in Afghanistan and Syria, the wheels come off.”

Opinion | The Oslo Accords’ Last Remnants Are Under Fire. Don’t Let Them Die. – By Michael J. Koplow – The New York Times

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Dr. Koplow is an advocate for a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

CreditCreditHazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to immediately annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley after Israel’s election on Sept. 17, should he emerge victorious. He further pledged to apply sovereignty to Israel’s settlements throughout the West Bank after President Trump unveils his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s fortunes and Mr. Trump’s plan may not matter. Under the radar, the Israelis and Palestinians have already set ominous precedents in administering their divided territories that will be extremely difficult to back away from and promise an incendiary environment for any talks about a lasting peace.

In short, the longstanding rules of temporary side-by-side coexistence in the West Bank, as set out under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, are already being violated, and bit by bit both sides are taking steps that would nullify the remaining vestiges of the accords. If that trend continues, what is shaping events on the ground now may render any type of future division impossible.

Here is the problem: Oslo created clear lines of administrative control in the West Bank for Israel and the Palestinians by dividing the territory into distinct zones in which each side is responsible for day-to-day governing. Areas A and B are under Palestinian Authority administrative control, and Area C is under Israeli administrative control. While there have been numerous and continuing violations by both sides when it comes to security responsibility, that has not been the case with administrative responsibility. Until recently, Israel exercised its administrative control of Area C without attempting to extend its administrative reach into Areas A and B, while the Palestinian Authority ran Areas A and B with respect for Israel’s monopoly on governing Area C.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Comment at the NYT
Thank you Michael J. Koplow for this disturbing report. Ever since reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris as a teenager, I have been a supporter of Israel. But over decades, the picture has slowly changed, and the victims have become the victimizers.
It is time for the US to stop its $3 Billion subsidy to Israel, or explain what clear purpose it serves. My heart goes out to both sides, but the Palestinians, despite their faults, deserve a place to live.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Can This Man Oust Netanyahu? – By Bari Weiss – The New York Times

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“. . . .  Mr. Lapid is aware of this. “Security will be the first demand every Israeli in his right mind will talk to you about,” he told me.

“There several issues in which the majority of Israelis — 70 to 80 percent — think approximately the same,” he said. “We are all students of the disengagement of 2005, in which Israel did what the world asked us to do. We left Gaza. We dismantled the settlements. And I supported it at the time. But you know what? It was a mistake, doing it unilaterally. The only thing that happened is that less than a year later they voted Hamas into power. We left them with 3,000 greenhouses for them to build an economy and instead they built training camps” for jihadis.

So where does that leave the West Bank? Can the occupation go on indefinitely?

He paused. “It’s a very American question.” Because Americans think “everything is fixable.”

“Really, really wanting something or desiring something strongly is just not enough,” he said. “I’m not willing to see one Jew die because someone took an unnecessary risk in the name of values I really cherish. Like peace, like humanity, like people’s need for self-recognition.” “

via Opinion | Can This Man Oust Netanyahu? – The New York Times

Opinion | Ilhan Omar- Aipac and Me – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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by Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

March 6, 2011248 c
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, on Capitol Hill in January.
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Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“I’ve been watching with more than a little interest the controversial statements about Israel and the Israel lobby by Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from the Fifth District of Minnesota, because it turns out that we have a lot in common — up to a point.

The first thing we have in common is that I was raised in the Fifth District of Minnesota, specifically the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. I lived there until I was 20. It was a freaky place — a crazy mix of Minnesota Jews (we called ourselves “the Frozen Chosen’’) and Scandinavians that produced a uniquely tolerant civic culture and an interesting group of neighbors: Al Franken, the Coen brothers, Peggy Orenstein, Norm Ornstein, Michael Sandel, Sharon Isbin, Marc Trestman and lots of others you can find on the St. Louis Park Wikipedia page. Our little town was immortalized in the Coen brothers’ 2009 movie “A Serious Man.’’

I still feel very close to the community there and go home often. St. Louis Park welcomed Jews who wanted to get out of the inner city of Minneapolis back in the 1950s — when other suburbs still had restrictions on selling homes to “Hebrews.’’ So I was proud to see St. Louis Park also welcome Muslim Somali refugees like Omar a half-century later, and then elect her to Congress.

The other thing that Omar and I have in common, as others have noted, is that we both don’t like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) — the organization at the center of the Israel lobby — and have spoken in very blunt language about its strong-arm political tactics.”

via Opinion | Ilhan Omar, Aipac and Me – The New York Times

Opinion | The Safe Zone Northern Syria Needs – By Shervan Derwish – The New York Times

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By Shervan Derwish
Mr. Derwish is a spokesman for the Manbij Military Council.

Jan. 23, 2019


A soccer match in Manbij, Syria, which was freed from Islamic State control by Kurdish fighters in 2016.CreditCreditEPA, via Shutterstock
MANBIJ, Syria — Whether the United States and the international coalition against the Islamic State will protect Manbij and areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria from an unknown future is a significant test of their credibility.

I am writing from Manbij, a city of 700,000 people in northern Syria governed by a civilian administration made up of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Circassians. Thanks to the Kurdish fighters who liberated Manbij in 2016, we have been able to enjoy freedoms unimaginable under either the Islamic State or the Syrian government.

In Manbij, where women were once bought and sold as slaves by the Islamic State terrorists, now they run economic cooperatives, serve in the Manbij Military Council and have equal representation in elected councils.

For the first time in Syrian history, we have held free local elections. We have reopened or built several hospitals and 350 schools attended by 120,000 students. We have given 2,000 licenses to factories and flour mills. The physical reconstruction of our city has been slow but steady. Most important, people are living without fear.

via Opinion | The Safe Zone Northern Syria Needs – The New York Times

Opinion | More Schools and Fewer Tanks for the Mideast – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 22, 2019,  180 c


Tunisians last week celebrated the anniversary of their 2011 revolution.

Credit
Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

“President Trump’s sudden announcement that he’s pulling U.S. troops out of Syria and shrinking their number in Afghanistan has prompted a new debate about American ground forces in the Middle East and whether keeping them there is vital or not. I’m asking myself the same question. To answer that question, though, I need to start with another question:

Why is it that the one Arab Spring country that managed to make a relatively peaceful transition from dictatorship to a constitutional democracy — with full empowerment for its women — is the country we’ve had the least to do with and where we’ve never sent soldiers to fight and die? It’s called Tunisia.

Yes, Tunisia, the only Middle East country to achieve the ends that we so badly desired for Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, did so after having hosted more U.S. Peace Corps workers over the last 50 years than U.S. military advisers and after having received only about $1 billion in U.S. aid (and three loan guarantees) since its 2010-11 democracy revolution.

By comparison, the U.S. is now spending about $45 billion a year in Afghanistan — after 17 years of trying to transform it into a pluralistic democracy. That is an insane contrast. Especially when you consider that Tunisia’s self-propelled democracy is such an important model for the region, but an increasingly frail one.”

via Opinion | More Schools and Fewer Tanks for the Mideast – The New York Times

Opinion | Trump’s Black Friday Sale: Oil- Guns and Morals – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Nov. 20, 2018,   666
President Trump speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
Credit
Tom Brenner for The New York Times

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President Trump speaking to reporters on Tuesday.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
“I really wrestle with this question: What is the worst thing about President Trump’s approach to foreign policy? Is it that he is utterly amoral or that he is such a chump? Because the combination is terrible — a president who is an amoral chump is the worst thing of all. He sells out American values — awful enough — but then gets nothing of value in return.

Trump presents himself as a tough, savvy deal maker, and then he lets all these leaders play him for a sucker. The word is out on the street: “Hey, guys, get in line! Trump is giving away free stuff! Just tell him you’re fighting Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or that you’re a friend of Sheldon Adelson’s, and you get free stuff!”

Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a dream of every Israeli prime minister — for free! Trump could have gone to Bibi Netanyahu and said: “Bibi, here is the deal. I am going to make your dream come true and move the embassy. But in return you’re going to freeze all Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank.” Then Trump could have told the Palestinians: “You’re not going to like this. I’m moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But I am getting you something no American president ever got you — a freeze on Israeli settlements beyond the settlement blocks.”

Instead, Trump gave the embassy move away for free. Well, I shouldn’t say that. He got millions of dollars in donations for the G.O.P. from right-wing Jewish megadonor Sheldon Adelson — who lobbied for the move — and warm applause from evangelicals. So Trump got something, but America got nothing.

via Opinion | Trump’s Black Friday Sale: Oil, Guns and Morals – The New York Times

Opinion | Step Away From the Orb – by Maureen Dowd – NYT

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WASHINGTON — I was having dinner here once with a Saudi muck-a-muck. Midway through the interview, he passed an oblong velvet box across the table. Inside I found an expensive piece of jewelry.

I began laughing and explained that I was a reporter and could not take such baubles. The Saudi said he understood.

About 10 minutes later, I felt a knocking against my knee under the table. It was the oblong box, offered more covertly.

The Saudis are experts on emoluments. If you don’t take their favors one way, they find another way to try to co-opt you.

via Opinion | Step Away From the Orb – The New York Times