Conservative columnist George Will: US withdrawal from Syria could result in a ‘severe Republican thrashing’ in 2020

Conservative columnist George Will: US withdrawal from Syria could result in a ‘severe Republican thrashing’ in 2020
George Will, image via Flickr.

Veteran conservative columnist George Will is so disdainful of Donald Trump’s presidency that after decades of being a registered Republican, he left the GOP. And this week, Trump gave Will yet another reason to be critical of him: the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. That withdrawal, Will writes in a Washington Post column published on Thursday, might give Democrats a golden opportunity to push themselves as the party of national security in 2020.

“Aside from some rhetorical bleats, Republicans are acquiescing as Trump makes foreign policy by and for his viscera,” Will stresses. “This might, and should, complete what the Iraq War began in 2003: the destruction of the GOP’s advantage regarding foreign policy.”

After the Vietnam War, Will recalls, “Republicans acquired a durable advantage concerning the core presidential responsibility: national security.” But he quickly adds that the GOP’s advantage in that area is “durable but not indestructible if Democrats will take the nation’s security as seriously as Trump injures it casually.”

Will recalls that in the past, isolationism was found on both the left and the right.

“Conservative isolationism had said America was too virtuous for involvement in the fallen world,” Will contends. “Progressive isolationism said America was too fallen to improve the less-fallen world.”

To some neocons, the idea of Democrats selling themselves as the party of national security in 2020 might seem far-fetched. But Will points out that Democratic presidents had a hawkish reputation until the 1960s.

“Democrats were present at the creation of Cold War strategy,” Will explains. “From President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson through Sen. Henry Jackson and advisers such as Max Kampelman and Jeane Kirkpatrick, they built the diplomatic architecture — e.g., NATO — and helped to maintain the military muscle that won the war. But the party fractured over Vietnam.”

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, Will notes, comes at a time when Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives because of the Ukraine scandal.

“Because frivolousness and stupidity are neither high crimes nor misdemeanors, his decision — however contemptible because it betrays America’s Kurdish friends — is not an impeachable offense,” Will observes. “It should, however, color the impeachment debate because it coincides with his extraordinary and impeachment-pertinent challenge to Congress’ constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch.”

Will concludes his column by warning the GOP leadership that if it continues to be blindly loyal to Trump, the result might be a major blue wave in the 2020 election.

“In 13 months,” Will asserts, “all congressional Republicans who have not defended Congress by exercising ‘the constitutional rights of the place’ should be defeated. If congressional Republicans continue their genuflections at Trump’s altar, the appropriate 2020 outcome will be a Republican thrashing so severe — losing the House, the Senate and the electoral votes of, say, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and even Texas — that even this party of slow-learning careerists might notice the hazards of tethering their careers to a downward-spiraling scofflaw.”

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