William McRaven, a retired four-star Navy admiral who led the U.S. Special Operations Command under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, believes President Trump’s decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies in Syria is a betrayal that is eroding the country’s reputation both at home and abroad.
“If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us?” McRaven wrote in a scathing New York Times op-ed published Thursday. “If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?”
The op-ed was published the same day the White House announced it had brokered a temporary ceasefire in Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria. But critics, including GOP Sens. Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham, said Trump effectively caved to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
McRaven said that during a military ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., last week, a retired four-star general grabbed his arm and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”
“Those words echoed with me throughout the week,” McRaven wrote. “We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.
“But, if we don’t care about our values,” he continued, “if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?
“President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness,” McRaven added. “He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years. If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.”
And if not, “then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better,” he wrote. “The fate of our Republic depends upon it.”
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