In a small Syrian city called Manbij, Syrian army personnel, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Russian military men met. And danced.

No, this is not a Monty Python video, but rather the latest chapter in the Syrian Civil War, and specifically the strange bedfellows that any alliance against ISIL seems to produce. Whatever the celebratory dancing meant – likely that the ISIL rump state seems to be collapsing in Syria as well as Iraq – the dancing will not go on forever. Or even more than a very short time.

There are also at least two other major forces present in the town. American forces are now there to prevent Turkish forces – whose border is a short distance north of Manjib – from launching an assault on the Kurdish-led forces. America needs the Kurds to decisively crush the Islamic State in Iraq. But as Matthew Continetti points out: what does that imply about America’s policy towards an independent Kurdistan? Which would affect not only Turkey – which has suffered a lengthy terrorist campaign by Kurdish extremists – but also Syria, Iraq, which is in constant danger of fracturing into warring regions like Afghanistan, and God forbid, Iran.

Kurdistan as the Balkans of the Middle East? You wish. The Balkans and their various wars are a cakewalk compared to the dangers surrounding any possible attempt at establishing an independent Kurdish state. What is America’s position? Secretary of State Tillerson will have to get back to us on that one.

But maybe that’s asking the wrong person. FiveThirtyEight has a malicious but interesting analysis of the power centers in the White House. It counts 8 of them. Perhaps they go a little overboard, being a rather liberal, if reliably wonky and usually data-driven, political site. But there are clearly a number of decision-making foci, if you will, around the West Wing. And also in Congress.

Which brings us to what the fivethirtyeight story labels as the McCain wing. Or the stand-up-and salute-em crowd. Senator McCain works with – in this view – Defense Secretary Mattis, DHS Secretary Kelly, and National Security Adviser McMaster in promoting, that means mostly talking up at conferences – a more robust defense posture on the part of America. Compared to the president’s nods towards a more neutral pragmatism. That also means putting boots on the ground in Iraq in the final takedown of ISIS. And it now seems to mean sending a military presence – on the ground and in the air – into Syria to keep Turks and Kurds from shooting at each other after ISIL has been defeated.

Did Mattis lay out a detailed plan for the president on America’s presence in Manbij? Did it include dancing lessons for tank commanders? Did it – rather more seriously – include a little history on America’s presence in the Lebanese Civil War in the early 80’s? Which ended badly, as we all know.

In other words, how much of the details does Defense Secretary Mattis get to keep to himself, and not trouble the president with, when it comes to placing American assets in the middle of the (winding down it is true) Syrian Civil War? Because if it blows up yet again in Syria or Iraq, President Trump can certainly fire Mattis, or Kelly, or McMaster. But he will own the tragedy.

For all of us who bled with compassion at the sight of Alan Kurdi’s little lifeless body lapped by the waves, we must all remember that going into Syria means Americans will be in harm’s way, once again, in an area where a coherent policy has yet to be stated. And even if stated, will be exceedingly difficult to execute.

The other power centers in the White House might want to keep tabs on what the McCain wing is up to.

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