Reason Roundup

The So-Called Grown-ups Have Gotten to Trump on Syria: Reason Roundup

Plus: What to make of Kavanaugh's racial profiling emails and how "nativists keep shifting the goal posts."


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There are plenty of legitimate lines of criticism against President Donald Trump's policy preferences, antics, and decorum. But all too often, establishment takedowns of Trump—from centrist conservatives and liberals who consider themselves "the grownups" in this improbable era—dwell on course-correcting one of the few things the Trump administration has done moderately right: not getting us further entangled in foreign civil wars, nation-building boondoggles, and other imperial adventures of the sort that Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama adored.

This respite was bound to be short-lived, given that Trump doesn't seem to be guided by principles so much as by a series of impulses, alliances, and petty grievances. Hence, five months after he said he wanted America "to get out" of Syria, Trump has now agreed to a major escalation of U.S. action there.

What will happen to U.S. troops in Syria?

The 2,200 or so troops currently stationed in Syria will stay, even though their stated primary goal of ousting ISIS "has nearly been completed," notes The Washington Post. Now the goal is getting Iranian forces to go, even if that sets us up for direct conflict with not just Iran but Russia.

James Jeffrey, who was named "representative for Syria engagement" by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said American troops will now be tasked with ensuring the exit of all Iranian military personnel and helping to build (as the Post puts it) "a stable, nonthreatnening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community."

Never mind that this hasn't gone so well when we've done it before—this time, we'll do it longer! "We are not in a hurry," Jeffrey said, adding that he is "confident that the president is on board with this." Previously, Trump "resisted significant involvement" in the Syrian civil war "even as both Iran and Russia increased their influence," notes the Post.

What will happen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

"Assad has no future, but it's not our job to get rid of him," said Jeffrey.

It won't be that easy.

Just today, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran, where Rouhani said the next step in Syria strategy was "to force the United States to leave."

Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute summed up the situation nicely: "In short, the Trump admin appears poised to commit us to a costly, unnecessary years-long commitment in Syria. Only the justification is different: rather than the idea of stabilization, it's the Iranian bogeyman. And the goals are so vague, mission creep is assured."


Dispatches from day three of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.