After the regime of Bashar al-Assad began its brutal and murderous repression of the largely peaceful Syrian uprising, I was very critical of then-president Barack Obama’s half-hearted and mismanaged efforts to aid non-extremist rebels in their struggle against the regime. But it was symbolically important that the US was doing something to help the more secular and democratic anti-Assad forces in Syria.
I was somewhat encouraged when President Trump approved a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a sarin gas attack on civilians
But now Trump has ended the covert CIA program to arm Syrian rebels.
Anti-Trump conservatives are the great truth-tellers of our new era. Writing at The Washington Post, one of them, Michael Gerson, is justly outraged:
[O]nce again, President Trump — after extended personal contact with Vladimir Putin and the complete surrender to Russian interests in Syria — acts precisely as though he has been bought and sold by a strategic rival. The ignoble cutoff of aid to American proxies means that “Putin won in Syria,” as an administration official was quoted by The Post. Concessions without reciprocation, made against the better judgment of foreign policy advisers, smack more of payoff than outreach. If this is what Trump’s version of “winning” looks like, what might further victory entail? The re- creation of the Warsaw Pact? The reversion of Alaska to Russian control?
…. Trump is the Henry Wallace of the populist right (which more than occasionally finds common cause with the populist left). “We should recognize,” Wallace argued following World War II, “that we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, Western Europe and the United States.” The difference now is that Russia has made the political affairs of the United States very much its business. With almost no serious American response. Russian interference in America’s self-defining civic ritual has been almost costless.
… It now seems that the Russians — by meddling in a presidential election and by playing down such aggression — have achieved an intelligence coup beyond the dreams of the Soviet era. The result is an America strategically and morally disarmed.