Editorial: An America-first policy without American values

  • People walk in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey Friday, as in the background, Turkish artillery pieces fire towards Syria.

    People walk in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey Friday, as in the background, Turkish artillery pieces fire towards Syria. Associated Press Photo

Updated 10/12/2019 4:58 PM

There no doubt is a worthy philosophical debate patriots of good will can have about the concept of an America-first foreign policy.

Few would disagree that our foreign policy should, as a fundamental, promote United States' interests.


The debate would be whether, in the long term, isolationism serves or undermines those interests.

As we say, patriots of good will can have an honest give-and-take on that issue.

But we would hope there is no disagreement that one of our country's greatest strengths is and has been its moral authority, its eminence as a beacon of freedom that inspires us toward the American dream at home and emboldens those abroad, meanwhile, to aspire to the promise that America offers.

America stands tall because America stands for something.

As imperfect as our union has been, the beauty of the American experiment has been its constant striving toward the perfection of our ideals.

Those ideals do not turn their backs on our friends. Doing so is a foreign policy of both cynicism and shortsightedness, not a policy of America first.

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President Donald Trump's abrupt decision last week to withdraw troops from Syria's border with Turkey has been assailed on many grounds: that it could lead to a resurgence of ISIS and benefit geopolitical adversaries such as Russia and Iran.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called it "a major blunder" and "an impulsive decision that has long-term ramifications." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell labeled it "a precipitous withdrawal."

All these criticisms have merit and give us pause. Promises late in the week that sanctions may be applied to pressure Turkey are small consolation.

For, our greatest pause comes in regard to our commitments, to the betrayal of the debt we owe the Kurdish forces who fought alongside our troops for years. The decision to withdraw not only puts Kurdish independence in jeopardy, but it already has brought a cost to Kurdish lives as well.

More than once, this White House has embraced stubborn pragmatism over American values, and the betrayal of the Kurds is only the latest example.

When Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist living in the United States, was assassinated with the suspected concurrence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Trump decided Khashoggi's life was not worth losing an arms deal.

"We don't like it even a little bit," the president said. "But whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country … That would not be acceptable to me."

Our foreign policy must support American interests. But in doing so, it also must support American values. No policy can truly be America first without first recognizing who America is.

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