CEO of the Hegemony
Naturally I don't know the particulars or the reasoning behind this move, and can only speculate, but I'm very leery of declaring victory and leaving as a strategy, given the history of such U.S. retreats in the region. Perhaps President Trump feels that Turkey is not going to let ISIS regain its former glory in any case because Erdoğan wants to be the ringmaster in the local area, not ISIS. It's likely that the move could be popular in the lower ranks of the military that do the actual fighting, if not necessarily popular with all the generals, and Trump is likely clearing the decks for the 2020 election, which could be part of his motivation. Obviously he needs to do something to expand his appeal with the voters moving forward.
One strong negative for me is the apparent abandonment of our strongest allies in the area besides Israel, the Kurds. I've been a fan of that ethnic group and our close relationship with them since the 1950s.
ETA: The New Yorker reports that in a tweet storm, the president said the following:
“Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?” he wrote, on Thursday. “Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight….Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”
[One thing we may be getting from being such a policeman, from actually being physically present in the Middle East at the operational level, is enhanced military intelligence information about what our enemies are planning or intending for Europe and the U.S. proper.]
Of course, withdrawing from places like Syria was a Trump campaign promise.
Withdrawal is dumb from the POV of Trump wanting to "make America Great Again." Regionally it allows the Turks to trounce the Kurds without hindrance, takes the pressure off whatever minor remnants of ISIS (always a secondary issue) remain, and allows Assad to consolidate power. Strategically it leaves a vacuum into which Russian and Iranian influence can (and will) pour, and diminishes America on the world stage.
The latter is more important than it seems. The British Empire had imperial overstretch problems from the minute it began consolidating empire under the Crown in the mid 19th century rather than allowing its empire to exist under private economic and military adventurism (e.g. the East India Company and Rhodes et.al.). The expenditures of WWI exacerbated those problems. By the early 1920s the empire was in precipitous economic decline and Whitehall was well aware of it. But the empire was still fully intact in the eyes of the world, including a United States that by now was widely recognized as the next up and comer by everyone but the US Senate, which was firmly isolationist in the postwar climate to the point that the US never joined the League that Wilson had been the driving force behind. Between 1918 and 1939 the empire was held in place almost exclusively by prestige. This was no small thing, built as it was by centuries of dominating the Atlantic sea lanes, being the arbiter of conflicts around the world, and English reputational power for uncorrupted governance was so strong that in the 1960s there was still a widespread undercurrent of opinion in India that the British should return and once again abolish the baksheesh system.
The point being that if WWII had not come along - if Chamberlain had been successful in assuaging Hitler - and if Britain hadn't had to call in all its imperial chips and sell off its overseas real estate, there is every likelihood that the empire would still be in at least partial existence to this day, albeit reformulated into an actual working commonwealth. The war changed everything: Russian consolidation of eastern Europe, nascent US power exploding and remaining overseas, the EU coming into existence, the global economic institutions of the IMF, liberal internationalism coming into vogue, self-determination reemerging as a prime directive of subsequent US administrations, and so on.
There's obviously no direct parallel here, but pulling out of a hot war zone and leaving a strategic hole diminishes the US not only regionally, but as a strategic player on the global stage. And that's important because it leads to misunderstandings and consequent adventurism by rival powers.
If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what is an empty desk a sign?~Albert Einstein