Middle Eastern Wars and the US alliance

Secretary of State for Defence, General Mattis, has resigned over a dispute with the President. The President wishes to keep his campaign promises to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. The General thinks the US should stay in these countries to be close to its allies.
It is true that the world’s leading power will have more influence and be more likely to succeed if its builds and maintains alliances. The US can depend on NATO, whilst understandably objecting that many NATO members fail to meet the minimum financial contribution which the US and the UK manage. The US will also have more influence in the Middle Eastern war torn region if it maintains local alliances and keeps troops there. This does not mean, however, that the President was wrong to campaign to reduce US military commitment to the Middle East, nor does it prove he is wrong to insist on keeping his word.
When the President asks his staff what US military intervention in Syria has achieved so far, there is no easy answer. The US and her allies did not want the Assad regime to continue, but had to assist the Assad regime in getting rid of ISIS, seen as an even bigger threat. Vacillation by the West over who the true enemy was – Assad or Isis – led to indecision and to growing Russian influence, based on strong backing for Assad. The roots of President Trump’s wish to exit can be found in the unwillingness of the Obama regime to commit fully to helping Assad against Isis, or the failure of President Obama to come up with another strategy to rid Syria of both, which would have required huge force from the US and her allies to have any chance of success.
When the President asks what good can current low levels of troops do in modern Syria, where Assad is close to controlling the country again and where Russia is well dug in as a substantial external influence, there again is no great answer. If the USA and her allies are not prepared to commit many more forces, and if they have no clear alternative to the Assad tyranny backed by Russia, there is not a lot of point in staying.
In Afghanistan things are a bit different. The USA and her allies does have a government to co-operate with, and the western coalition in the past has spent much blood and treasure on resisting extremists in that country. There, too, however, defenders of western involvement have to answer how much longer do we have to stay? How much more training do the Afghan security and defence forces need? Are we happy with the political results of the long war?
On both sides of the Atlantic there is war weariness over the Middle East, and some disappointment with the results of substantial past intervention. The military have done a brave and good job in difficult circumstances, but the politicians have found it difficult to translate that into successful political action to form war free states following democratic principles. President Obama help create a power gap in Syria which Russia exploited, and began the long withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is difficult to see what military options remain for NATO, or how military intervention would make benign democratic government more likely.

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59 Comments

  1. Javelin
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Turkey has made threats to invade Kurdish territory to protect their border.

    The Turkish President has said the “Kurds will die in their Trenches”

    Kurdish soldiers on Youtube are calling Trump’s exit a betrayal.

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      The Kurds will reconcile with Assad with probably a degree of self-government.

      Remember the USA,UK,France and Turkey are all on the sovereign soil of the Syrian Arab Republic illegally.

  2. Javelin
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    The DUP are correct in saying that by agreeing to sign the Common Transit Convention the UK, EU and Eire have conspired to remove the hard border between Eire and the UK because goods can pass through the UK and are only declared at the final destination.

    As happens in Switzerland. Border points still need to exist for people who voluntarily declare themselves, goods or services.

    The Governments have been forced to show their hand because of the Two Clear Month rule in the CTC, meaning any changes signed in Dec will start on the 1st of March. This legality shows the UK and EU Government “backstop” is an entirely synthetic (ie unnecessary) contrivance to keep the UK in the EU custom arrangement.

    Further the form of the backstop removes the UK “jus cogens” (ie strongly enforceable) right to political self determination. Other jus cogens rights include slavery and ethnic cleansing, which highlights that this law would fail any judical review.

    • Javelin
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Furthermore.

      In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told her ruby slippers could have taken her home at any time. In other words she could have withdrawn from her dream at anytime.

      The Wizard of Oz was, in fact, written by an economist criticising the Gold Standard. The Yellow Brick Road being the Gold Standard.

      The declaration by the Wizard that Dorothy could leave at any time is EXACTLY the same “jus cogens”’right as the UK’s right to leave the EU at anytime. The right to leave any international standard or treaty at anytime is an absolute right under international law. Art 50 was a politeness that was written to encourage badly behaved states to exit the EU by guaranteeing two years of negotiation.

      The reason Art 50 would work in the situation of a badly behaved state is that the EU would want the state to leave and the badly behaved state would have the right to recend Art 50 and rejoin the EU if the negotiation failed.

      The UK is not in that situation and therefore the EU has no pressure to negotiate anything. The only pressure comes from Eire wishing to have an open border to the EU over the UK landbridge. This has meant the CTC has been continued and that the backstop was uneccessary.

      • Rien Huizer
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        @ Javelin

        I have been wondering about the implications of the CTC too but from a different perspective: how to prevent the situation that Ireland (sorry, for me the Republic and the Island are the same) becomes a gap in the EU’s trade political barrier. No doubt there will be smart people who will see a way to abuse this and the end may well be inspections wherever cargo from the UK (regardless of CTC status) lands on the Continent. I mean, more than routine inspections.

        As to theoretical issues of International Law, I guess you would have to find a court that considers itself competent and you will have to show cause. I would say, why not give it a try and ask Betfair to sponsor you. It might be expensive. Interestingly, the ECHR might be your best bet and the UK seems to have no plans to leave that arrangement too. A national court (UK or otherwise) will probably refer you to the university library..

    • Javelin
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Further

      If I was advising a client I would give a 100% certainty that a judge would strike down May’s deal. The clauses giving the EU a right to political determination over sovereign UK law would fail on a “jus cogens” basis.

      Further because the judge would be unable to know why MPs voted the way they did he would have to deem the commons vote as void. This would mean the UK and EU would revert back to the deadline of March 31st.

      If the judicial review was seen after March 31st the judge would not have the authority to make a decision whether voiding the vote was in the national interest, and might cause disruption, because the right to self determination is an absolute right that could not be balanced against an economic interest.

      In otherwords the commons vote on the backstop is absolutely pointless if a judicial review were made. The vote is only happening because in the original judical review the commons were given a right on the final say. However as that vote now includes a violation of “jus cogens” it appears the vote would fail either in the commons or in the court.

      Whether this was intentional or not may never be known.

      Reply Courts seem very pro EU, and I do not know of anyone wishing to bring such an actions against the Withdrawal Agreement

      • Everhopeful
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        I still do not see why MPs have had what is basically a second vote on the Referendum. ( They did all have their individual vote in June 2016?). Surely after the vote their ONLY remit was to obey the decision?

        If the answer is that Parliament is sovereign then does that mean it can overturn any democratic decision?

        • jane4brexit
          Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          MPs and the House of Lords were told by Cameron, in the last PMQs before the referendum, what an “out” vote would mean no second referendum and leaving the EU in about 2 years without a deal, as any deal would be agreed “then” after we had left, taking up to a decade in all.

          He especially asked MPs to take note of that, we expected to move to WTO, but they and the BBC who filmed it must mostly have very bad memories (Q14 about 36 minutes into youtube clip). :

          “…“In” means we remain in a reformed EU; “out” means we come out. As the leave campaigners and others have said, “out” means out of the EU, out of the European single market, out of the Council of Ministers—out of all those things—and will then mean a process of delivering a trade deal, which could take as many as seven years. To anyone still in doubt—there are even Members in the House still thinking about how to vote—I would say: if you have not made up your mind yet, if you are still uncertain, just think about that decade…”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BjtP00IRPA

          • jane4brexit
            Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

            MPs and the House of Lords were told by Cameron, in the last PMQs before the referendum, what an “out” vote would mean no second referendum and leaving the EU in about 2 years without a deal, as any deal would be agreed “then” after we had left, taking up to a decade in all.

            He especially asked MPs to take note of that, we expected to move to WTO, but they and the BBC who filmed it must mostly have very bad memories (Q14 about 36 minutes into youtube clip). :

            “I am very happy to agree with my hon. Friend. “In” means we remain in a reformed EU; “out” means we come out. As the leave campaigners and others have said, “out” means out of the EU, out of the European single market, out of the Council of Ministers—out of all those things—and will then mean a process of delivering on it, which will take at least two years, and then delivering a trade deal, which could take as many as seven years. To anyone still in doubt—there are even Members in the House still thinking about how to vote—I would say: if you have not made up your mind yet, if you are still uncertain, just think about that decade…”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BjtP00IRPA

            (2nd attempt. Sorry Mr. Redwood the first comment missed out some of the quote)

          • Mark B
            Posted December 22, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Well done and thank you 🙂

        • Mark B
          Posted December 22, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          And the 2017 GE in which they agreed to implement our decision.

          And I believe it is the people that are sovereign, as their authority comes from our approval via the ballot box.

          The people are one of the checks and balances against a dictatorship. Remove that, as the EU wishes, then those in power, in this case the EU Commission, will have absolute authority without restraint. It is only when you think about it, and given Europe’s past, do you realise the peril people on the continent are in.

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        I read a similar opinion that the WA, if implemented, could be challenged in the ECHR on that basis which would be an ironic outcome. I believe there is existing ECHR case law to support a challenge.

  3. Nicholas Murphy
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    A thoughtful piece, Mr Redwood. Regarding Syria, our strategy has been a mess and this was the result of virtue-signalling, simplistic analysis by the Cameron government – a government that should have learned some lessons from Iraq and Libya. It was obvious that a Christian family in Syria would have been safer under Assad than under ISIS (or many of the rebel groups receiving Western military aid) and that consideration should have rung some alarm bells about what we were doing.
    Regarding Afghanistan, the West should continue military support, at a modest scale, sufficient to keep a functioning government in place. And given that many of the country’s cities are safe – and occasionally safer than Paris and the Cote d’Azur – the many military-age males reaching Western Europe from Afghanistan, by truck and dinghy, should be sent straight back.

    • forthurst
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      I think you will find that the Tories were fomenting the violent overthrow of the “Assad Tyranny” in order to unleash a flood of refugees into Europe at the same that they were plotting to unblock Libya so that it was able to disgorge an unending supply of sub-Saharan economic migrants. Now that they have signed the UN Migration pact they have the ‘moral’ authority to import an unending supply of third world migrants. The Tories will also import a never-ending supply of ‘engineers’ and ‘doctors’, also, from the third world, so it’s not just hungry mouths with no useful skills they want.

      The Tories are kind generous people who apart apparently from hating the English and wishing to destroy their country, have no obvious vices at all.

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Part of the reason the Syrian war is winding down is that the Gulf states have lost interest/are cutting their losses.The extraordinary power of Russian diplomacy has been evident-the burgeoning relationship with Saudi Arabia,the Stategic Partnership signed with the UAE in June and closer ties with Qatar(the Syrian civil war broke out after Assad had blocked the Qatar gas pipeline in favour of the Iran option in 2012-coincidence?).The UK will probably be the biggest loser from this shift in influence which I imagine is one of the reasons why the government pays for anti-Russian propaganda to be inserted into the UK msm(see the Integrity Initiative).

      Russia is also taking the lead with Afghan peace negotiations with the backing of China,Iran,Pakistan and the neighbouring “stans”.India is being encouraged to join the process.The Taliban are part of this and have said that there can be no peace until there is a timetable for total US withdrawal from the country.

  4. Kevin
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    There used to be a slogan, “We are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”. Now we are apparently saying to Asia Bibi, “Don’t come over here, it’s not safe”.

    • Nicholas Murphy
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      If Pakistan isn’t safe for Mrs Bibi we should stop sending them hundreds of millions of pounds. Better still, impose a strict, explicit conditionality of aid support.

  5. Bryan Harris
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    JR – It’s a little unclear as to whether this piece is in support of Trump, but yes he has a difficult job to do in balancing his pledges against the need to control enemies.

    Let’s face it, Afghanistan has seen the death of too many Western campaigns for a very long time – Keeping it politically stable after military intervention has been the ruin of many armies – so that is not a new problem. Perhaps we should play a different game, to avoid ISIS or something similar taking over Afghanistan, we should isolate it – like a nasty illness – Remove all military hardware, and allow the Afghan’s to be themselves and come to peace internally, or not. We should stop playing world soldiers.

  6. Mark B
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    President Trump is keeping his promises. He is a man of integrity.

    What threat is Syria to the UK, USA and her allies ? Little or none compared to those that went out there to fight for ISIS and ‘returned’ 😉

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Apart from that,I saw a quote from General Mattis in Peter Frankopan’s new book “New Silk Roads”re Russia:”Everywhere we come up against them ,they have us checkmated.”

  7. Adam
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    If military intervention achieves no useful outcome, intervening should cease. Maintaining alliances are important, yet participating offensively in worthless ventures stimulates only dangers & waste. We, the US & other allies should do what is most effective to protect our citizens’ future & minimise risks from hostilities.

    Switzerland is a peaceful nation that does not throw adverse weight about to harm others, & others have virtually no purpose in attacking it for revenge. We, as a nation for peace, should exert UK power via our brains, in pursuit of the common sense for goodness.

  8. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    USA/UK involvement in the M.E. has been strategically wrong, counter productive and negative for our welfares nationally and internationally. The Soviet Union came unstuck in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Russia’s involvement in Syria could well eventually backfire.

    There is a possibility that President Trump sees a disentanglement with Saudi Arabia as well, given USA has become an equally dominant force in gas/oil production again. He may also see the Pacific region as more significant as did Obama.

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      The USA is overstretched militarily and financially-at a time when there is considerable effort underway by the Sino-Russian bloc to de-dollarise in their trade.

      The Pacific pivot is in trouble and probably needs more focus-the USA’s traditional allies are to varying degrees hedging their bets with increasing ties to China and/or Russia.

      I thought it was quite symbolic that President Xi,on his recent visit to the Philippines,announced a multi-billion dollar investment in a new technology park just outside Manila-on the site of the former massive US Clark airforce base.

  9. Den
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    So President Trump is merely clearing up the mess caused by the Obama Administration. A pity then that the General could not see the picture from the President’s point of view.
    Generals focus on Military strategies while Presidents must focus on the National interests.

    • Nicholas Murphy
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      The problem is that General Mattis is one of what was called ‘The Axis of Grown-ups’. I trust his judgement on military matters more than Trump’s. The administration is weakened by his departure and by Kelly’s.
      P.S. Worth paying a visit to Breitbart to see just what vitriol is being thown at Mattiss by the lunatic fringe of Trump’s support base.

  10. Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Yes, just as everyone is fed up with the Middle East wars, everyone is fed up with UK government carryon over Brexit. Remember Blair and Bush kicked off all of this trouble in Iraq Afghanistan etc which spread out through the whole region. How many lives have been lost and lives destroyed? Now we have Trump the ‘manchild’ quivering his lips and throwing the toy’s out of the pram..jeez give us a break..dunno why we are even discussing this. Happy Christmas

  11. Alan Jutson
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    So easy to get sucked in to a war far away, much more difficult to leave with the spirits still high after many years of conflict.

    Far too often the end result is not much better, and sometimes worse than the original.

    • margaret howard
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      After 3 disastrous wars/ defeats against Afghanistan in the 19th century with terrible loss of life, you would have thought we had learned our lesson.

      The ignorance and arrogance of our leaders sometimes beggars belief. Now we get a repeat with the disaster of Brexit. We deserve better than that.

      EXIT BREXIT!

  12. Andy
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    NATO is a failing organisation.

    Led by unelected bureaucrats – (how can we vote them out?) – it can send our young people to fight and die in unnecessary foreign warns with us having little as y.

    NATO is not only a gross invasion of sovereignty is also expensive too.

    More than 2% of our GDP goes on NATO. Just 0.6% goes on the EU and 0.7% on international aid – both much better uses of money. Making people richer and healthier is far better for global security than bombing the hell out of them.

    So why do you not want to leave NATO then Mr Redwood?

    • Edward2
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      NATO is an alliance of nations that has kept the peace from the end if World War Two. and through the dangerous Cold War period.
      Each member can decide if it wants to continue.

      NATO doesn’t make laws, rules, regulations nor issue directives.
      Nations make decisions about going to war.

      • Mitchel
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        “Kept the peace”-you must be joking!Former Allied Commander of NATO,General Wesley Clark:-

        “We’re going to take out seven countries in five years,starting with Iraq and then Syria,Lebanon,Libya,Somalia,Sudan and then finishing off with Iran.”

        Nothing defensive or North Atlantic about that;no wonder wags refer to it as North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation.

        The sooner it is ended the better.I will look favourably on any party that has that commitment in it’s manifesto.

        • TooleyStu
          Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

          Mitchel, well remembered, and the catalyst for all this?
          3 towers brought down by 2 planes in 2001.

          Former Allied Commander of NATO,General Wesley Clark:-
          “We’re going to take out seven countries in five years,starting with Iraq and then Syria,Lebanon,Libya,Somalia,Sudan and then finishing off with Iran.”

        • Edward2
          Posted December 23, 2018 at 1:33 am | Permalink

          You are being pedantic.
          It is fairly obvious I meant keeping the peace in Europe.
          Which it has done against the constant threat of USSR

          You presumably think the expansionist EU, once it turns itself into the United States of Europe and gets its own armed forces will be all peaceful.
          Dream on.

          • Mitchel
            Posted December 23, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            There was no threat from the USSR – the cold war was instigated by Truman to get the Marshall Plan through congress-to frighten it- to boost a US economy that had seriously slumped after the end of WWII.

            There is history and there is cold war propaganda.

            There is more chance of NATO sparking a war in the East than any polyglot Euro-army.The chances of France which “everyone” says has the only decent armed forces on the continent getting into a war with Russia are as close to zero as possible.

    • margaret howard
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      It’s become an American controlled racket. But then when America says ‘jump’ we continue to answer ‘how high’?

      • Penny
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        How very strange. I thought that was the UK’s response to the EU – esp if the order was directed at Mrs May…

  13. zorro
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Interesting summary – interesting to see the furore around the decision, and a lot of contradictory comment saying that the US presence has been very effective but in the same breath saying that there are still 30,000 ISIS fighters. Where are they? It was only when Russia joined the fray that serious action took place against ISIS to degrade their capability and turn the tide in favour of Assad. The US had been using a tickling stick and accidentally dropping huge supplies of arms which just happened to end up in ISIS hands…..

    A not unreasonable assessment would suggest that the US would have been happy to see Damascus overrun by ISIS and at the very least see a de facto Salafist section in Syria 🇸🇾.

    President Trump is keeping his promise and trying to rein in aspects of the military industrial complex and particularly its foreign escapades.

    zorro

  14. mickc
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The USA did NOT assist the Assad government against IS. The USA assisted IS against the Assad government providing money and arms via Saudi Arabia. That strategy failed when Russia fully supported Assad; Russia had been a Syrian ally for many years.
    Prior to US support of the anti Assad grouping, (mainly IS and other groups none of which supported democracy, ) Syria was stable with a prosperous middle class.
    Assad was reforming the political system, and whilst a Western style “democracy ” (how Brexit is effected will prove whether the UK has any true form of democracy ) was never a possibility, a system more responsive to the people’s hopes and wishes was.
    The West’s (US and NATO) interference and support of IS has caused total chaos, untold numbers of deaths and ” blowback ” in Western countries in the former of sporadic terrorist events.
    In short our actions in the Middle East have been disastrous. If we must interfere there, it would behove us to start with the root of the problem and ensure Saudi Arabia is ruled by those more stable than the current clique. Happily it looks as if there may be some progress here; killing a journalist much favoured by the US ruling elite has not gone down too well…

    • Rien Huizer
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      And how would you go about regime change in Saudi Arabia?

      • mickc
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        By pointing out to the ruling clique that, as Trump has already pointed out, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t last two weeks without US support, and that for such support to continue a change of management would be helpful….

        • Rien Huizer
          Posted December 23, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Breaking things is easy, but building something better is hard. Too hard.

  15. Turboterrier.
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    President Trump has only done what he said he was going to do in his campaign.

    So shock horror when he goes and implements his policy everybody wants to slag him off.
    Pity our politicians do not stand by their party manifesto and honour its content.

    Since his “America First” battle cry and telling people like Nato and Europe that they are not standing their corner financially and just sitting back and let America take the responsibility and more importantly accountability when it all goes wrong, how can countries and politicians turn against him when in reality if they had been more fully committed financially to these operations, these announcements would never have to have taken place.

    • Nicholas Murphy
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Yes, and doing what he said he would do is his key strength. His major weakness remains the manner in which he implements his policies. I sometimes wonder if he makes enough use of his Veep.

    • Rien Huizer
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Why would you expect a politician to honor his campaign promises, especially someone who deals with the truth the way he does? Maybe because he is not a career politician, but a real estate and reality show entrepreneur. Both words with real in them, a bit like “really?”

  16. DUNCAN
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Syria and Obama. Like apple pie and custard, Sonny and Cher and Laurel and Hardy

    Obama like Blair has dragged moral politics through the gutter. They cause huge damage and then spin their way out of any blame using their media allies

    Trump? Trump’s an angel compared to the carnage caused by the previous president of a once great country

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      @Duncan,

      But how is Trump much better than Blair, Bush, Obama – they’re like all the same basically?

      His vision of American, for me, is just to turn more of the USA into glitzy gold, Las Vegas-style USA. Boring. Dull.

      I hear nothing of the:

      1) Family
      2) Building up America through Work Ethic and Diligence
      3) Culture (creating the great artists and writers and composers of the future).

      And so on. Things of real value.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        And beautiful buildings like we see in Florence, Venice, Salzburg, Oxford, and so on.

        The modern world is losing its sense of beauty, the arts, the family, healthy patriotism.

        If only we had leaders trying to emulate the Vizier, Joseph of Egypt instead of the Pharaohs (just look at the 20th century Nazis), how different our world would be ..

        For God, Queen / Country, Family.

  17. John S
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I am not voicing an opinion but for years many American people are fed up fighting other people’s wars.

  18. Rien Huizer
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    Mr Mattis is a ture expert, not only a career soldier. It is pretty strange if a US president who did not even do military service (despite having attended a military flavoured high school) with little or no exposure during his later life to matters of security makes a snap decision on such a sensitive issue all by himself (although the national security advisor was apparently present during the call with president Erdogan; but Mr Bolton is not a military man, he is an ivory tower strategist who has no personal experience of a profession where people must be able to kill and to die , for their country). I guess the various responses outside the US wete pretty clear: allies find this disturbing and are wondering what to do with their own “assets” in these areas.

    I thought that the idea of someone with a high degree of integrity, expertise and discipline would be a useful antidote against a rather flawed character whose business career was dominated by dishonesty and antisocial behaviour. Not completely out of character for a NY real estate opretator (be it a middle level one) with very poor relations with his most critical source of support: the banks, but a clear discontinuity with previous presidents.

    Interesting that you wrote this post. Looks like you have respect for the person, rather than the office.

  19. rose
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    In addition to your sound judgement, Trump must be the only president to be lambasted for bringing home soldiers in time for Christmas.

  20. Chris
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    President Trump is masterful in his strategy with regard to the Middle East, and an article on The Conservative Tree House website (US website) explains P Trump’s moves and what he has gained from them in article entitled:

    “CHECKMATE – Saudi Crown Prince MbS Sends Replacement Troops To Defend Kurds in Syria…”

  21. Ed Mahony
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    This all goes back further than Obama—to the Iraq War – 9/11.

    A war that opened up a Pandora’s Box in the M.E.

    Obama had his hands ties regarding Syria – a war-weary USA.

    The question is who do we trust more, General Mattis or Donald Trump on this? According to The Telegraph, Senior Republicans are turning against Trump according to The Telegraph. Republican Rubio, normally loyal to Donald Trump as far as I can tell, described Trump’s decision as a ‘colossal mistake.’

    And the Wall Street Journal (Gerald Seib) comments that Trump’s decision COULD make this a ‘very messy decision down the road’ in terms of:

    1) The fate of the Kurds (who helped the USA)
    2) The role of Russia and Iran in the Middle East
    3) Assad becoming more powerful
    4) The rise of ISIS-like terrorist organisations again

    • Chris
      Posted December 22, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      Please see the article on The Conservative Tree House website detailing how President Trump’s moves on Syria are just what is needed to help restore stability and responsibility in the Middle East. I am not permitted to post the link, but the title of the article is:

      “CHECKMATE – Saudi Crown Prince MbS Sends Replacement Troops To Defend Kurds in Syria…”

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted December 23, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        Sure, I will. But I’m just getting my information from Conservative sources as well:

        1) Telegraph
        2) Wall Street Journal
        3) Republican Senators

  22. fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh for God’s sake. Can’t everyone just stop slagging off Trump at least for Christmas? The man can do nothing right in the media’s eyes and yet he is doing nothing he said he wouldn’t do when elected. There has been far too much meddling in other nations affairs and it has got us nowhere.

    Happy Christmas to you John and your family and let’s hope we get free from the clutches of the EU in 2019.

  23. Ronald Olden
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Involvement in Afghanistan at its’ present level can continue indefinitely.

    Apart from the ‘training’, maintaining Western influence on the people being trained and in Afghanistan in general is a good thing, and our presence there helps the West know what’s going on.

    Insofar as it’s ever possible, NATO involvement in Afghanistan is becoming a success.

    There doesn’t seem to be great risk to the Western participants and neither are we in potential conflict with an important sovereign state. So surely it’s a good idea to let things continue.

    Syria however is another matter.

    Unless you are willing to mount a full scale invasion and occupation you can’t be in a situation where you are in military conflict with both opposing sides in region and where you have no achievable objectives.

    Peace will arrive in Syria sooner if it’s left to Syria and Russia. It might not be the sort of peace we want, but it’s better than never ending civil war.

    • Mitchel
      Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      “NATO involvement in Afghanistan is becoming a success”.

      No it certainly is not.It is reliably reported that you cannot go 100 miles outside Kabul in any direction without encountering the Taliban which allegedly is getting material support from the neighbouring regional powers who want the US/Nato out of their backyard.More to the point American servicemen are starting to lose their lives again.

  24. cosmic
    Posted December 22, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Starting with the 2nd Iraq War, we’ve seen several military adventures in the Middle East. They’ve been entered into on dubious grounds and justified for nonsense reasons, such as establishing democracy. There was no thought as to what came after, what victory looked like, what defeat looked like and what the exit strategy was. A common theme has been overthrowing a secular dictator, leaving a power vacuum to be filled by squabbling tribal and religious factions, and thereby creating worse problems and a running ulcer. It looks very much like naive meddling in things there was no understanding of.

    People in the US and the UK are fed up with it. Trump is doing what he said he’d do and withdrawing troops from Syria. I’ve no doubt there will be problems with that, but there’s no easy way to deal with a running ulcer.

  25. Leon Bonner
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    it is my opinion that these wars have been proxy ‘wars for israel’ and have been a mistaken course of western foreign policy going as far back as the end of the cold war and the very first gulf war. I say that as a person of jewish heritage and as a supporter of israel. however the west cannot continue on this course of regime change in the middle east, in the end i feel it is counter productive for the state of israel and has led to a terrifying rise in anti-semitism world wide. the west must revise its foreign policy objectives and disengage from the middle east theatre while still maintaining its support for the state of israel but with the focus on israeli defence rather than regime change in the region.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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