Trump's tough call

Trump's tough call

Turkey's ongoing military incursion into Syria began when President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from land in northern Syria held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The US has long considered the SDF an important ally in the drive to destroy ISIS. Turkey, by contrast, accuses the SDF of support for Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.


President Erdogan says his country's military will push the SDF and its 40,0000 fighters further from the Turkish border and create a "safe zone" inside Syria to house many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees now living in camps inside Turkey.

Trump's decision to withdraw US troops cleared the way for Turkey's military to attack the SDF.

This story raises a broader question: What's the proper role for the world's only military superpower in today's world? Is Trump right to withdraw these troops? Or is he making a big mistake?

Here's our take on the most compelling arguments for each side.

Against Trump's withdrawal

  • The US president has stabbed a loyal American ally in the back. People who counted on support from Washington are now being killed. Civilian men, women, and children will be among the dead.
  • The US needs allies, and Trump's decision to withdraw protection from the SDF, who have fought alongside Americans to defeat ISIS, sends a clear signal to US allies around the world that Washington can't be trusted. The president may promise one thing today and abandon his pledge tomorrow. The next president may refuse to keep promises that the current president makes.
  • The SDF holds thousands of ISIS members captive. Attacking the group could free these fighters.
  • The US withdrawal will allow ISIS to rebuild and commit new terrorist attacks, possibly on US targets. It will also help Russia and Iran tighten their grip on Syria.
  • In ordering this withdrawal, Trump, the only person ever elected US president without ever having served in government or the military, overruled senior military leaders and officials with deep experience of the Middle East. Strong leaders are willing to be guided by experienced advisors.

For Trump's withdrawal

  • The Kurds are not "allies" of the United States. They are dependents. Allies come to your aid just as you come to theirs.
  • Iran and Russia already control Syria, and military occupation of a foreign country won't eliminate the risk of terrorism at home.
  • US soldiers shouldn't be asked to fight over land in the Middle East, occupy its unstable countries, and patrol its streets until the region's powers all become friendly democracies. The American taxpayer shouldn't be asked to pay for endless commitments to the security of others.
  • If now is not the moment for withdrawal, then when? US troops have been in Afghanistan for 18 years.
  • The first obligation of the US president is to the American people. Candidate Trump promised he would free the US from never-ending wars in the Middle East, and he intends to keep that promise.

The bottom-line: Complicated problems don't come with obvious answers. Tell us what you think.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

More Show less

Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

More Show less

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

More Show less

In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

More Show less

Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal