Anti-interventionism is where the country is at
"Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand," said President Donald Trump in an impassioned defense of his decision to cut ties to the Syrian Kurds, withdraw and end these "endless wars."
Are our troops in Syria, then, on their way home? Well, not exactly.
Those leaving northern Syria went into Iraq. Other U.S. soldiers will stay in Syria to guard oil wells that we and the Kurds captured in the war with ISIS. Another 150 U.S. troops will remain in al-Tanf to guard Syria's border with Iraq, at the request of Jordan and Israel.
And 2,000 more U.S. troops are being sent to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom from Iran, which raises a question: Are we coming or going?
In his conflicting statements and actions, Trump seemingly seeks to mollify both sides of our national quarrel:
Is America still the world's last superpower with global policing obligations? Or should we shuck off this imperial role and make America, again, in Jeane Kirkpatrick's phrase, "a normal country in a normal time"?
In Middle America, anti-interventionism has carried the day. As Trump says, no declaration at his rallies is more wildly welcomed than his pledge to end our Middle East wars and bring the troops home.
But in this imperial capital, the voice of the interventionist yet prevails. The media, the foreign policy elite, the think tanks, the ethnic lobbies, the Pentagon, the State Department, Capitol Hill, are almost all interventionist, opposed to Trump's abandonment of the Kurds. Rand Paul may echo Middle America, but Lindsey Graham speaks for the Republican establishment.
Yet the evidence seems compelling that anti-interventionism is where the country is at, and the Congress knows it.
For though the denunciations of Trump's pullout from Syria have not ceased, one detects no campaign on Capitol Hill to authorize sending U.S. troops back to Syria, in whatever numbers are needed, to enable the Kurds to keep control of their occupied quadrant of that country.