The Trump White House has turned the world upside-down. One remarkable example of inverted logic and values was recently revealed in Donald Trump’s withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria. Apparently undertaken without consultation from either domestic advisers or foreign allies, this action leaves a vacuum in the region currently being carved up in a bilateral deal between Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Despite the President’s claims of success, local Kurdish residents find themselves in a diplomatic netherworld after more than four years as a solid US ally in the fight against the Islamic State.
It is deeply ironic that one outcome of America’s precipitous withdrawal from northern Syria is that the Kurds are seeking alignment with forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—their vicious enemy in the Syrian civil war, now in its ninth year. How bad must things be when the Kurds are reaching out to the very forces who have ferociously opposed them for years? How much more frightening must it be to face Erdogan’s Turks backed by their Russian patrons? How shameful is it that the US is relegated to the sidelines in negotiations about the Kurds’ future in lands that have been in their families for generations?
Another fearsome by-product of this policy is that Kurdish forces who have been guarding ISIS fighters and sympathizers in massive camps have left to defend their villages against the advancing Turkish army. This has resulted in the escape of hardened ISIS fighters, family members and sympathizers.
Meanwhile, half-way across the world and almost lost in the steady onslaught of impeachment news, thousands of children continue to be held in detention centers as they await endless delays in processing their claims of asylum at our southern border. These children, who are innocent of any crime, are fleeing violence in their home countries to seek a new life in the US.
But Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, coupled with administrative ineptitude and a general lack of empathy, has prompted a massive humanitarian crisis and caused delays in asylum hearings that can extend for months. The children are stranded—sometimes without knowing the whereabouts of their parents—in conditions that are unsafe and unsanitary. Illness is rampant. Fear is ever-present. And uncertainty induces slow and persistent trauma that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Contrasting these two illustrations presents us with a stark example of how administration policies have turned the world upside-down. Malevolent dictators re-draw the map of the Middle East. Violent ISIS fighters go free while innocent children are held in cages for interminable periods. It is a dramatic illustration of how those in power have lost their way.