Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) delivers remarks on the Senate floor on Syria. "What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history."
Let me briefly recount what’s happened in the past seven days since the U.S. announced our withdrawal. The Kurds, suffering loss of life and property, have allied with Assad. Russia has assumed control of our previous military positions, and the U.S. has been forced in many cases to bomb some of our own facilities to prevent their appropriation by Russia and Turkey...
The ceasefire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally. Adding insult to dishonor, the Administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty, their homes have been burned, and their families have been torn apart...
What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history.
There are broad strategic implications of our decision as well. Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision. At a time when we are applying maximum pressure on Iran, by giving them a stronger hand in Syria, we have actually weakened that pressure. Russia’s objective to play a greater role in the Middle East has also been greatly enhanced. The Kurds out of desperation have now aligned with Assad. So America is diminished. Russia, Iran, and Assad are strengthened.
And so I ask how and why that decision was made?...
I ask whether it is the position of the Administration that the United States Senate, a body of 100 people representing both political parties, is to be entirely absent from decisions of the magnitude just taken in Syria?
Now some argue that we should not have been in Syria in the first place because there was not a vote taken by the Senate to engage in war there. I disagree. Congress has given the President legal authority and funding to fight against terrorists in Syria...
Others argue that we should just get out of a messy situation like this. The Middle East, they say, has had wars going on forever, just let them have at it. There’s of course a certain logic to this position as well, but again it applies only to the original decision as to whether or not we should have gone into Syria. Once we have engaged, and made the commitments we made, honor as well as self-interest demand that we not abandon our allies.
It has been suggested that Turkey may have called America’s bluff, telling the president that they were coming no matter what we did. If this is so, we should know it, for it would tell us a great deal about how we should deal with Turkey now and in the future.
Some have argued that Syria is a mess, with warring groups and sub groups, friends and allies shifting from one side to another, and thus we had to exit because there was no reasonable path for us to go forward. Are we incapable of understanding and shaping complex situations? Russia seems to have figured it out. Are we less adept than they? And are our principles to be jettisoned when we find things get messy?
The Administration claims that none of these reasons are accurate. Instead, the President has said that we left to fulfill a commitment to stop endless wars, to bring troops home, to get them out of harm’s way, perhaps to save money. I find these reasons hard to square. Why? Well, we withdrew 1,500 troops in Syria but we are adding 2,000 troops in Saudi Arabia. And all totaled, we have 60,000 troops in the Middle East.
Assuming for the sake of understanding that getting out of endless wars was the logic for the decision, why would we take action so precipitously? Why would we not warn our ally, the Kurds of what we were about to do? Why would we not give them time to also withdraw or perhaps to dig in to defend themselves? Clearly, the Turks had a heads up because they were able to start bombing within in mere hours.
I simply do not understand why the Administration did not explain in advance to Erdogan that it was unacceptable for Turkey to attack an American ally. Could we not insist that together we develop a transition plan that protects the Kurds, secures the ISIS prisoners, and meets the legitimate concerns of Turkey as well? Was there no chance for diplomacy? Are we so weak, and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?
We once abandoned a red line. Now, we have abandoned an ally.