To the editor:

The president’s decision to withdraw U.S. military personnel from the Syrian-Turkish front is, in the view of many, nothing less than betrayal. We are not privy to the commander-in-chief’s rationale, which could be based on a variety of valid factors. However, this latest abandonment is difficult to accept as another disgraceful act of treachery. Yes, the 17-year war seems interminable. And yes, Mr. Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise and I am sure there are regional and geopolitical factors to consider as well.   

But this abandonment is an unwelcome reminder of another act of betrayal. We departed a prior generation’s seemingly interminable war by abandoning our Montagnard and South Vietnamese allies to the horrors of a brutal North Vietnamese invasion. The communist victors wasted no time in seeking out and punishing our former allies. For many who served in that bitter conflict, this was a disgraceful betrayal. Many veterans of the recent Mideast conflict must share this same sense of shame.

Our acts of betrayal of allies who, with great risk, depended on heartfelt promises is more than a regrettable geopolitical decision. Particulars will change but the stain remains. Just as Lady MacBeth unsuccessfully attempts to wash away the stain of betrayal of a friend, our latest betrayal will also be unsuccessful. Except in our case, the blood is real.

Betrayal of any kind is not only shameful but immoral. One of the great masterpieces of western civilization has much to say, in a very graphic, horrific way, about the moral implications of turning on a trusting friend and ally. Masterly invented, it is nonetheless a reflection on the moral and ethical mores of man’s obligation to himself, fellow man and God. “Dante’s Inferno” is an account of an imagined hellish abyss that imposes punishments suitable for the offense. The image is one of a descending circular construct with a large opening which decreases in circumference, much like a funnel. This abyss is composed of nine rings. The residents of each ring have caused his/her own punishment for acts for which they must answer. Dante assigns the first several circles to those who lived lives of greed, lust, sloth and anger, the usual vices of man’s relationship with himself. Descending from these rings, the image becomes very dark and bleak. Those who enter the ninth circle – Dante labels it treachery – are without redemption of any kind.

Betrayal of trust is the ultimate moral infraction, even more than the worst of violent crimes (which of course often include a betrayal). We can only hope this latest example is our last before a separate category is designated for nations.