March 31 1968 was a big deal for the United States’ global military prestige. President Johnson announced bringing U.S. troops back from Vietnam. Weeks later he announced that he wouldn’t stand for re-election.
With the United States assassination of the highest Iranian military official and the Iranian and Iraqi governments responding accordingly, President Trump is on the road for a remarkable feat not seen since LBJ’s fateful move.
President Trump has got most U.S. troops out of Syria in 2019. In doing so he abandoned thousands of Kurds who fought alongside them against ISIS, and abandoned all that the US military and its other allies fought for to the interests of Iran and Russia, propping up the murderous Assad family again.
President Trump has sought to enable an agreement with the Afghan Taliban last year. The Taliban already control 15% of the country and a further 29% is unstable. Thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, countless wounded since 2001. It will conclude, with well documented doubt and disillusionment for the U.S. military over years, that very little was gained for anyone.
See ya Afghanistan.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahd has condemned the assassination attack yesterday as outrageous, increasing the likelihood that remaining troops and bases will get chucked out faster than ever.
Of course the U.S. still has huge air and naval bases in Qatar. UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and further afield in Turkey (Adama), Jordan (Al-Azraq), and elsewhere.
So it’s not the moment to go all misty-eyed about Trump’s United States going all peacenik or anything.
But the broader picture is something akin to LBJ’s withdrawal from Vietnam. While retaining peripheral bases, the U.S. vacuum left chaos in the region that lasted for decades making odd allies and unlikely enemies.
Imagine a move so brazen that it could unite the governments of Iran and Iraq. That’s a feat. A world in which one could start to imagine after 30 years – from Afghanistan to Iran to Iraq to Syria – United States no longer enforces military order.
It’s almost LBJ redux, but so much larger, deeper, and greater in waste and damage.
While immediate consequences remain unpredictable, the United States pattern now is clearer.