MINOT, N.D. — This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives held a vote on a resolution condemning President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria.
Congressman Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota's at-large member of that legislative chamber, voted for the resolution. He joined 128 of his fellow Republicans in doing so.
The reaction I've seen, on social media and elsewhere, from many of Armstrong's Trump-backing constituents is indignance, to put it mildly.
"The main thing I hoped for from each of the 3 N.D. Republicans that we sent to D.C. was that they would support our courageous President," one member of my audience posted on Twitter. "So far, I've been generally disappointed in all three."
I spoke to Armstrong about his vote. "This sort of destabilizing decision is how terrorist organizations are formed," he told me.
The decision was too abrupt, he said, and the long-term consequences could be dire.
He has a point.
The Kurds have been useful allies for our fight against terrorism in the Middle East, generally, and the fight against ISIS, specifically.
The Kurds aren't a perfect ally. A faction of the Kurdish forces is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a Marxist terrorist group. The Turkish state has endured numerous attacks perpetrated by this group. They have a genuine argument against them.
It doesn't behoove America's interests to get involved in the tensions between the Turks and the Kurds. Yet abruptly abandoning the Kurds to the aggression of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan — a man Armstrong says "lied in his assurances" to the Trump administration and Congress — doesn't help our long-term interests either.
Even if Trump is doing the right thing, he's doing it the wrong way.
Remember that in the 1980s, under the Reagan doctrine, our country provided support to the Afghan mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviet Union. Once our interests were served, we ended the support only to see may of those fighters, including one Osama bin Laden, organize themselves into what would become al-Qaeda.
Many Trump supporters who also voted for Armstrong would like him to be obedient to their wishes. They want him to back the president.
What Armstrong is doing is exercising judgment, based on our very long and fraught history of Middle Eastern policy.
This is an important concept.
"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
That quote is from Edmund Burke, an 18th-century statesman and philosopher who promoted the trustee model of political representation. He felt that our elected leaders, rather than being delegates tasked with strict obedience to the whims of the electorate, were trustees expected to exercise their judgment.
We live in a very populist time. Voters these days expect obedience.
We are governed better, though, when our elected leaders exercise judgment. Their judgment may not always be sound, but that only means we should choose someone with better judgment.
Armstrong exercised judgment, not obedience. He deserves praise, not pillory.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.