COLUMN: Syria after Trump
I enjoy whenever a newscast frames the headline as “What should Trump do about Syria?” The question shocks me because it implies President-elect Donald Trump should be doing anything at all in the Middle East, but it, assuming the United States has a right or duty to shape the history of a nation it helped destroy, is also asking what the U.S. should do about Syria.
Replace Syria with Libya, Iraq, Venezuela, Chile, Iran, Mexico or the Native Americans. The U.S. is founded on the idea that we are indispensable or exceptional. To quote former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “But if we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”
The phrase “American exceptionalism” fascinates me because it has the word “exception” in it. A longtime theory in political science discusses how a state claims a monopoly on the use of force by claiming it has an exception to do whatever it pleases. Many states claim to be exceptional.
The myth of American exceptionalism is nothing distinct.
This ideology seeps into how media coverage portrays the actions of us vs. the actions of them, especially when it comes to matters of imperialism. When Russia bombs U.S.-backed Islamic shock troops in Aleppo, Syria, and kills civilians, every international institution imaginable decries it.
When the U.S. bombs the Islamic State group and kills hundreds of civilians, the press celebrates it as a success against our enemies.
No one ever discusses Saudi Arabia’s murderous war in Yemen, where Saudi airstrikes, backed by the U.S., have killed thousands of people. Chemical weapons have been used, and famine is widespread, but not a peep of it in the U.S. because it is done by us and our allies.
The ongoing hysterical anti-Russian campaign in the media is because the U.S. and its cohorts — Saudi Arabia, Europe, Israel and Turkey — in this war have failed to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad. Now Russia and Tukey are at détente, and peace talks in Iran to determine the future of Syria have excluded the U.S.
Turkey is instead encouraging the gulf states to join. Whether Trump will resist the anti-Russian/Assad/Iran rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C., is yet to be seen. If Trump won’t participate in talks, it could mean worsened political isolation in the region.
The blockade to peace in Syria is the continued existence of the rebels and IS within Syrian territory. Once the U.S. withdraws support from the rebels, the region must cope with the wave of terrorism that is already happening and will continue to happen.
IS is killing scores in Iraq, and Turkey continues to be a victim of major terrorist attacks, such as the assassination of the Russian ambassador and the New Year’s Eve shooting in Istanbul. Apparently, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was not expecting the rebels he was supporting in Syria to turn on him.
Aside from joining the talks in Iran, there isn’t much Trump can do in Syria.
The U.S.’s support of the rebels during the past six years created a situation like when the U.S. backed Afghan rebels in the 1980s. International terrorism ensued once the U.S. left Afghanistan.
We must hope something similar does not happen.