In the past few years, U.S. strategics priorities have evolved, with reduced importance of the Middle East, while China and Russia are identified as primary strategic competitors and possible adversaries. So Trump’s personal decision to withdraw of U.S. forces from Syria does not go against the new strategic priorities, but this does not mean it is tactically correct.
No view or doctrine can anticipate the specifics of every place and time. Historically, U.S. foreign policy has oscillated between isolationism, and “the best defense is a good offense.” Neither of these very general, simplistic ideas can replace strategies particularized for time and place.
We could attempt to understand Trump’s decision as stemming from the colossal failure of “the best defense…”, in SE Asia and Iraq. It may fail again on a global scale in the attempt to extend Pax Americana further into the 21st century. But another strategic metric/strategy, virtually unused in U.S. foreign policy, has to our chagrin been employed by Putin’s Russia, and Xi’s China. Yet it’s essentially capitalist in nature.
This is ROI, return on investment. Compared to interventions of recent history, the U.S. deployment in Syria has provided very good ROI. The Kurds, who seem to have a natural affinity for the West, are also among the best proxies we’ve ever had. The ROI metric says, support the Syrian Kurds.
The NSC staff and Secretary Mattis have cogently stated the case for the Kurds as proxies, both to shape the Syrian state, and to impede the extension of Iranian influence to the shores of the Mediterranean. But the Kurds are a stateless people, with tragedy as their companion. Let us suppose that at some point in the future, overarching U.S. objectives require their abandonment. Foreign policy and stateless tragedy are bedfellows.
There is a moral question. It is possible that the moral question and U.S. interest coincide, at this moment of time, and possibly into the distant future. This is left to the reader to decide for himself.