“The sudden decision to pull about 1,000 American troops out of northern Syria, and leave Kurdish allies in the lurch after they did so much to fight off the Islamic State, has already had terrible consequences. The Kurds have been forced to make a deal with the murderous regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, hoping it will protect them against being massacred by incoming Turkish troops who regard them as mortal enemies. Russia and Iran, without whose support Mr. Assad’s government would not have survived, are quick to benefit from America’s sudden retreat. Violence in an already ghastly Syrian civil war could get a great deal worse.
The aftereffect of President Trump’s capricious move will also be felt far beyond the border area of Syria and Turkey. Alliances are based on mutual interest and trust. Since World War II, the interests of the United States and its allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have been safeguarded, for better or for worse, by a global order dominated by the United States. America’s purported enemies for most of this time were Communist powers. Many an unsavory regime, notably in Latin America, was supported as a result, so long it was anti-Communist. And many a foolish war was fought in the name of freedom and democracy.
This world order — call it Pax Americana or American imperialism, as you like — has been fraying since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cold War had given United States–led alliances a purpose. The “war on terror” was never a convincing substitute. And the disastrous attempt by George W. Bush to reorder the Middle East by invading Iraq, ostensibly to liberate benighted Arabs, made the idealistic justification for Pax Americana look like a cynical sham.”
“. . . .Now that Mr. Trump has given his stamp of approval to autocrats and despots, from Vladimir V. Putin in Russia to Kim Jong-un in North Korea, the moral check on dictatorship has disappeared. More and more political operators, not only in former Communist countries in Central Europe, but everywhere, including in some of the oldest democracies, will be emboldened by Mr. Trump’s example. Countries will become more divided between authoritarian populists and the supposed enemies of the people who try to hold them back.
This is the true end of Pax Americana, the best of it anyway. The reckless unpicking of military alliances and the betrayal of allies are already bad enough. But there is something even worse afoot. People all over the world still look to the United States as an example. But now it is the enemies of liberal values who view with glee how American leadership is wrecking the very things that Mr. Roosevelt once fought for.
Ian Buruma, a professor at Bard College, is the author of a book on the rise and fall of the Anglo-American order to be published next year.”