As Media Covers Kurdish Deaths, Trump Says Condolence Letters to Military Families Are Harder for Him Than Anything Else
President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw American troops from Syria 10 months ago in December 2018.
At the time, many expressed concern over the possible repercussions of abandoning the Kurds and leaving an opening for the Islamic State group.
After a tussle with then-national security adviser John Bolton, Trump decided to leave troops in place, The Washington Post reported at the time.
But on Monday, Trump announced that he would be following through with his initial plan and will withdraw American troops from Syria.
CNN and Vice called the withdrawal “sudden.” Foreign Policy said the decision was “abrupt.”
Reuters reported on a Turkish attack on Kurdish militia, leaving hundreds dead.
Back in August, as Stratfor reported, the U.S. engaged Turkey and the Kurds in negotiations to arrange a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
But those negotiations broke down, leaving Turkey moving, arguably inexorably, toward an invasion that would almost certainly have had repercussions for American troops in the area.
That background is critical to understanding Trump’s decision, regardless of whether you see it as right or wrong.
It also ties into a striking comment the president recently made.
“The hardest thing I have to do, by far — much harder than the witch hunt — is signing letters to parents of soldiers that have been killed,” Trump said Wednesday.
“The hardest thing I have to do is signing those letters. That’s the hardest thing I have to do. Each letter is different. We make each letter different, and last week I signed five of them for Afghanistan, one in Iraq, one in Syria from two weeks ago, and sometimes I call the parents, sometimes I see the parents.”
The hardest thing I have to do as President… pic.twitter.com/6bzwh78I00
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
Don’t expect Trump’s comments to wear thin from overplaying in the media. What the president said not only humanizes him, but it also gives a glimpse into the president’s thinking on withdrawing troops, not just in Syria but in hotspots around the world.
Again, whether Trump’s decision on Syria is right or wrong is debatable. What’s not debatable is that deploying troops anywhere risks some of those troops being injured or killed.
Placing U.S. troops in Syria to promote regional stability is fine as a theory.
In reality, however, Trump likely knew that Turkey was growing impatient and desperate and increasingly willing to risk foolish confrontation.
If he knew that Turkey was about to boil over, Trump would also know that the likelihood of writing more condolence letters was about to increase unless he made a change.
The president’s job is not to make sure American soldiers never die. The president’s job (among others) is to make sure no American soldiers ever die needlessly.
Whether there’s a need for American blood and treasure in northern Syria is a question experts can debate.
Whether a president should loathe risking American lives isn’t.
Trump hates writing condolence letters, and he appears determined to not write any more than are absolutely necessary to preserve the national security of the United States.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.