Goodbye, America. Goodbye, Freedom Man.
Oct. 11, 2019
The time is the early 1980s. The place is the South China Sea. A sailor aboard the U.S.S. Midway, an aircraft carrier, spots a leaky boat jammed with people fleeing tyranny in Indochina. As he helps bring the desperate refugees to safety, one of them calls out: “Hello, American sailor — Hello, Freedom Man.”
It’s the sort of story Americans used to like hearing about themselves. So much so, in fact, that Ronald Reagan told it in his 1989 farewell address, by way of underscoring how much went right for the United States when, as he put it, “ We stood, again, for freedom .”
Not anymore. When the world looks at the United States today, it sings a sorry song. Goodbye America. Goodbye, Freedom Man.
That’s the global lesson from the regional catastrophe that is Donald Trump’s retreat in Syria. The president made his case, as he usually does, in a series of tweets this week. Like their author, the tweets were, by turns, sophomoric and self-important, flippant and destructive.
He praised the Kurds as “special people and wonderful fighters” who “in no way have we Abandoned” — and yet he abandoned them.
He praised Turkey for being “good to deal with” and “an important member in good standing of NATO” — after warning that he would “totally destroy and obliterate” its economy if it did anything he didn’t like.
He boasted that “The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!” — but took the one step most likely to speed their resumption and expansion.
And he congratulated himself for his “great and unmatched wisdom.” Of course.
Closer to the mark in assessing the results of American withdrawal was Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, who said of the U.S. that it was “ futile to seek its permission or rely on it for security .”
To survive the Turkish onslaught, the Kurdish forces we have cavalierly betrayed will now have little choice except to try to reach an accommodation with Bashar al-Assad. This will allow the Damascene dictator to consolidate his grip on the country he has brutalized for nearly 20 years — demonstrating to autocrats everywhere that using sarin gas, barrel bombs, hunger blockades, and every other barbaric method against defenseless civilians pays.
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