Gabbard Was Right: It Was ALWAYS About Regime Change in Syria

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Last night during the Democrat debate, and even today via various commentary, the only ones who appear to really know what is going on in Syria, are President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. When asked her opinion regarding the recent events in Syria, Gabbard said,

Well, first of all, we’ve got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we’ve been waging in Syria.

Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war.

Mayor Buttigieg responded,

Well, respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.

Gabbard put him away with the following,

Yeah, absolutely. So, really, what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That’s really what you’re saying?

I could tell that Gabbard had had an outsized effect as the moderators let former Vice President Biden have the last word,

And with regard to regime change in Syria, that has not been the policy we change the regime. It has been to make sure that the regime did not wipe out hundreds of thousands of innocent people between there and the Iraqi border..

Gabbard must have struck a nerve. After the debate, the on the air commentary by the leftist punditry hit her for straying off the Democrat plantation on this particular issue. That continued in print today with VOX’s “Winners and Losers” column (emphasis mine)

The congresswoman from Hawaii has premised her entire candidacy on fierce opposition to US military adventurism abroad. Tonight, she had a chance to distinguish herself during a lengthy foreign policy debate — and made a series of blatantly false statements.

VOX goes on

The US is not waging a war of regime change in Syria (as Biden pointed out later in the debate). American troops are in northern Syria assisting Kurdish forces in combating the ISIS presence in the country. The reason Turkey invaded the Kurdish-held territory is that it sees the Kurds as terrorists and doesn’t want them to have a quasi-state on its border. And it was able to launch the invasion because President Donald Trump pulled out US troops.

But Gabbard’s comment wasn’t a one-off error. Again and again, Gabbard called for an end to the “regime war in Syria,” which is simply not what’s happening there. She bizarrely blamed the “regime change war” for the Syrian refugee crisis, instead of the murderous regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has indiscriminately attacked populated areas.

When Buttigieg challenged her shaky analysis, saying that “the slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal,” she accused him of supporting “endless war.” His response was succinct and devastating: “You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump’s policy, as you’re doing.”

In a post debate hot take, my colleague Bonchie had this to say

The United States miscalucated on Libya and Syria. That’s the point Gabbard has been consistently making, even when the rest of her party was cheer-leading those interventions. That may not matter to the talking head sitting in an MSNBC studio today, but it should matter to the rest of us, and whether you agree with Gabbard or not, at least be intellectually honest enough to admit that the war in Syria didn’t start in 2017.

Why was Gabbard cut off? Why has the entire leftist establishment gone after her? My colleague has indicated that the mainstream left, was protecting Elizabeth Warren…and possibly Joe Biden, though the jury is still out on that second part. I believe there is a lot more to it than that. They are protecting the legacy of President Barack Hussein Obama.

This whole Syria mess belongs to Obama. As I mentioned in a previous series of pieces on Syria (links below) President Obama, at the urging of his UN Ambassador Samantha Powers, supported by his National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, came up with a U.S. doctrine known as “Responsibility To Protect” or RTP. It is this failed doctrine that is responsible for the exaggerated death toll in the area.

But, the Obama/Powers doctrine didn’t start in Syria. Prior to its employment in Syria, it had already resulted in two key allied governments being overthrown and one allied President being murdered. In the case of Libya’s Qaddafi, then-Secretary of State Clinton was heard to cackle, “We came. We saw. He died.” Think about that. We supported and then celebrated the demise of a former hostile enemy who had made peace with us. We celebrated his murder in the street.

In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak was also overthrown (but not murdered). His successor, a radical Islamist named Morsi, was vocally supported by the Obama Administration. Typical of the Obama/Powers foreign policy, a cooperating ally was replaced with a hostile one, the more radical the better. Fortunately, Morsi was toppled by a popularly backed military coup and Egypt ultimately elected a President who, after Obama’s departure, has sought closer ties with the U.S. and extended cooperation with Israel.

In Syria, the Obama administration thought they could extend their tough-guy foreign policy by toppling yet another dictator. Once again they would hide behind the skirts of RTP while trying to depose Bashar al-Assad. Assad was in the middle of a civil war, a leftover result from the same “Arab Spring” upheavals that made Qaddafi and Mubarak vulnerable.

What the Obama-Powers team did next, is why we now have a situation where we are in confrontations with a NATO ally and Syrian backed Russian forces, as we try to defend two groups of terrorists. President Obama just had to meddle in the Syrian civil war, a conflict that had absolutely no negative impact on the interests of the United States. What this did, was convince President Assad that he needed some help—and fast. So what did he do? He invited in the Russians, sweetening the pot with what they’ve always wanted—a port for their navy.

The Russians being good military partners, also brought some ground troops and some airplanes. They had enough airplanes flying patrol, that we had to establish a hotline with their field commanders to “deconflict” our flights and theirs. I’ve mentioned before that, according to international conventions, which we are a signatory to, if a Russian aircraft downed a U.S. plane over Syria, killing the pilot, we would be at fault. That’s right. The Russians are there at the invitation of the legal sovereign in Syria. We, on the other hand, are in a foreign country without its permission.

Meanwhile, ISIS was getting some traction in Iraq and Northern Syria. What did the Obama Administration do? It decided to once again take on “partners” of questionable character, namely two Kurdish terrorist organizations, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (Turkish Kurds). These two groups indeed did a fine job in killing ISIS fighters, which they would have done anyhow as they were already fighting them. But as they seized ground in Northern Syria, they also killed their fair share of Christians and destroyed priceless antiquities—something Assad did not do. A big part of his long term support in Syria was that he left Christians and the Druze alone.

Now that the ISIS threat was gone, President Erdogan wanted to rid himself of the danger a border enclave of SDF and PKK would pose to his country. Remember, tens of thousands of Turks have been killed in PKK terrorist attacks. Erdogan had a righteous concern. So, he gave his NATO ally due notice and sent his Army to clean up the border area. President Trump, wisely not wanting to get involved in an anti-terrorism operation by a NATO ally, nor put U.S Troops unduly at risk, got our folks out of the way.

Interestingly, far from being totally massacred, the SDK and the PKK now have found new allies—Syria and the Russians. In not too long a time, the revolutionaries who were trying to break free from Assad, are now voluntarily back in the fold, Assad is more firmly entrenched in power and now the Russians have their very own port and increased influence in the area. All of this as a result of President Obama sticking his nose into other countries’ business. However, where we are now, does provide a clue as to how we get out of this imbroglio. Stay tuned.

Here are four previous articles on Syria

Syria Withdrawal Part I: The Right Decision

Syria Withdrawal Part II: Protecting (Our) Kurds

Syrian Withdrawal Part III: The Current Battlespace

Syria Withdrawal Part IV: Conclusion-Way Ahead

Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.

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You can find his other Red State work here.