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Will Democrats Become Born-Again Neocons?

Opinion|Will Democrats Become Born-Again Neocons?

Bret Stephens

Credit…Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria has drawn widespread scorn from Republicans and Democrats alike, and with good reason: The U.S. has betrayed an ally and ceded influence to a gallery of rogues — Bashar al-Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin and Qassim Suleimani, to name a few — in exchange for a hollow talking point about ending endless wars.

But give Trump this: He’s turning a remarkable number of foreign policy liberals and progressives into born-again neoconservatives.

That’s a thought worth pondering as the president pursues a foreign policy that, had it been undertaken by a Democratic administration, would likely have been met with considerable approval on the left. After all, getting America out of fill-in-the-blank — Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan — has for decades been the go-to slogan of progressives.

Why, now, should our retreat from Syria be any different?

If the argument is that the Kurds stood by us, depended on us, and helped us to wage a difficult war, well, so did many others, such as the Montagnards in Vietnam. If the argument is that our retreat from Syria creates the conditions for a humanitarian disaster, one must ask: Where was that humanitarian concern when much of the left was agitating for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as terrorist and sectarian violence exploded in 2005 and 2006? If the argument is that we are sending a fatal signal of fecklessness to friend and foe alike, why were so many liberals prepared to give Barack Obama a pass when the al-Assad regime violated his chemical red line in 2013?

George Costanza exercise in doing the opposite.

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