One bullet can start a war, but no rifle has enough bullets to end a war.
To know this truth is to see our troops in Syria, where peace with honor is improbable and the freedom of a just peace is impossible, because we are belated bystanders—we are witnesses after the fact—to a treaty between leaders, to a breach of trust by Russia and a betrayal of a people by the twice-elected leader of the American people.
We stand before the red line of a fait accompli, of a welcome phrased as a warning, of a warning without the deterrent of war, of a war in which we have no battles to fight and no right to stay where we are: in a sea of red whose land will not dry, whose waters will not divide, whose depths will neither save the drowned nor free the saved.
President Trump has no reason to follow Barack Obama’s red line of war without victory. He has no reason to use martial words unless he chooses to marshal our forces—unless he chooses to place tens of thousands of U.S. troops—in Syria.
If he cannot remove a thousand men from the Middle East, if he cannot bring five companies home, then no commander in chief can withdraw even a platoon from the disaster in Homs.
If an isolationist is a president who refuses to fight everywhere, who believes it is better to match right with might, who knows he has no right to pursue humanitarian ends by inhumane means; if President Trump will not sacrifice more troops for his predecessor’s mistakes, if he will not ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake, let history remember him as the first president with some measure of military restraint.
If, on the other hand, Turkey’s president continues to parrot a series of hawkish lines, if this foul creature is so foolish as to play chicken with the Kurds, he will wring his own neck.
May his men stumble repeatedly, rising only to flee and never fight again.