Syria

Go Ahead, President Trump, Please Withdraw from Syria Already!

We shouldn't have been there (or Iraq) in the first place.

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Just like trade wars, shooting wars are a lost easier to start than they are to end.

Earlier today, Trump tweeted:

MARY F. CALVERT/REUTERS/Newscom

The Wall Street Journal and others have quoted military officials saying things such as, "The Pentagon has an order to move troops out of Syria as quickly as possible." The same articles are quick to note that many in the White House and Pentagon are against removing the slightly more than 2,000 troops and that, in any case, the U.S. will remain a presence in the region:

A White House official said that "U.S. forces will continue the fight against ISIS" and added that the U.S. would also use "tools of national power, including economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure" to combat the influence of Iran in the region. "Iran knows the U.S. stands ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests," the official said.

Reuters is reporting a slightly different version of events but with the same endgame:

All U.S. State Department personnel are being evacuated from Syria within 24 hours, a U.S. official told Reuters, after the White House said it had started withdrawing U.S. forces.

The official said the U.S. plans to pull military forces out of the country once the final stages of the last operation against Islamic State is complete, and that the time-frame for the troop pullout is expected to be between 60 to 100 days.

The decision came after a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. "Everything that has followed is implementing the agreement that was made in that call," the official said.

Among the critics of the pullout is Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R–Ill.), a veteran himself:

We left Iraq, and had to come back.

Memo to Kinzinger and other hawks: That's exactly the problem. The more we intervene, especially without clear goals and shared understanding of victory, the more we have "to come back," if we ever get around to leaving in the first place. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a non-sequitur in what was then called the Global War on Terror. As I wrote in 2002 (!), when the George W. Bush administration first started publicly floating plans to (re)invade Iraq:

Having failed to find Osama bin Laden and thoroughly quash Al Qaeda, it almost seems as if Bush is simply hell-bent on attacking Iraq because he can. The current debates taking place within the Bush administration and the U.S. Senate will hopefully stay that apparent decision, which will not make the legitimate goals of the war on terrorism any easier to achieve.

The result of the Iraq War was to destabilize the entire region and, ultimately, produce the context in which the Islamic State would develop. (ISIS is of course solely responsible for its atrocities, as are the Syrian and Iranian regimes for theirs.) All but the most dogmatic interventionists recognize the failure of using military force in Iraq (after overwhelmingly supporting invasion, the American public got there in late 2005). The failure of Iraq (including in the eyes of hawks, the failure of the United States to stay there even after the democratically elected government told us to hit the bricks), helped destabilize Syria. But the Pentagon, every bit as much as nature, abhors a vacuum, and so we ended up in Syria.

About a month ago, The New York Times reported on why the president had yet to visit troops in combat zones. The answer is pretty amazing:

Unlike past Republican presidents, Mr. Trump has seen little value in the long American deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflicts. He considers them a waste of money and lives, and has told advisers that the people in the countries where troops are stationed are not really friends of the United States.

One reason he has not visited troops in war zones, according to his aides, is that he does not really want American troops there in the first place. To visit, they said, would validate missions he does not truly believe in.

It's worth pointing out that the most recent Democratic president didn't have problems with long-term deployments in misguided, aimless wars (indeed, we can thank Barack Obama for getting us into Syria). Whatever else one might think of Trump, he is absolutely correct that our current hot deployments have accomplished little or nothing, casused untold suffering and wreckage, and are a waste of resources.

I hope Trump actually does follow through and pull out troops. He will certainly face an enormous amount of pushback from within his administration and without (all those #NeverTrump conservatives probably disagree with him on foreign policy more than any other policy topic). And remember how seductive using military power is, especially as president? Back in April 2017, Trump launched a mostly symbolic missile strike and the response from media elites and elected officials was a variation on the nauseating trope of "Today, Donald Trump finally became president."

Screw that. Trump might start becoming president of the United States the day he starts bringing soldiers home from unconstitutional wars that have no clear connection to national security.

Back in August 2013, when the Obama administration first started talking about invading Syria, Reason offered "3 Reasons Not To Go To War with Syria." Take a look:

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48 responses to “Go Ahead, President Trump, Please Withdraw from Syria Already!

  1. The result of the Iraq War was to destabilize the entire region and, ultimately, produce the context in which the Islamic State would develop.

    Gillespie is saying the United States broke Syria. The argument I guess is that this means the United States has to fix it. Luckily for non-interventionists the president has a history of stiffing the bill.

    1. It also sort of implies that the Middle East was just fine and dandy before we invaded Iraq, which is a curious position to take.

      1. You are sort of implying that if something is not fine and dandy then we need to invade it, break things, kill people, and make it even less find and dandy, which is a curious position to take.

        1. Whatever you think of the Iraq war, Iraq at least has oil and some reason to care about it. Syria has no oil. I cannot think of a single reason why the US should care what happens in Syria. In fact, since the US is now more or less energy independent, it is hard to justify why the US should care what happens anywhere in the Middle East.

          Yes, Islamic terrorism is a problem. But trying to install pupet governments in Muslim countries and going to war to keep other countries from doing the same isn’t going to solve Islamic terrorism or make the country any safer from it. If Syria or any other country sponsors a terorrist attack on the US or harbors a terrorist organization that launchs and attack on the US or its citizens abroad, then fine. We can embark on one hell of a nasty punitive expedition that will leave everyone there ready to shoot the next guy who shows up preaching the jihad against the Great Satan. Absent that and the small moral obligation to at least send arms to our allies in Iraq, there is no reason the US should care who runs or what goes on in the Middle East.

          1. There was an excellent opportunity to overthrow Assad, which would have put tremendous pressure on Iran, but that opportunity is lost.

            Meanwhile, the press will come after Trump for doing Putin’s bidding in withdrawing troops, and they’ll come after him if and when things go badly in Syria after we leave.

            I think Trump is just crazy enough to be taking the best interests of the United States into account. He sure as hell ain’t no neocon. They’re shitting their cages over this, right now, I’m sure.

            1. Things have been going badly in Syria for a long time. It is hard to see how they could go badly such that it would make any difference. And the charge that Trump is giving Syria to Putin is something so stupid only a journalist or think tank wonk could believe. So, I doubt this will make much difference to the voters other than it meaning voters won’t be seeing more Americans come home in body bags.


        2. You are sort of implying that if something is not fine and dandy then we need to invade it, break things, kill people, and make it even less find and dandy, which is a curious position to take.

          Not really, but I suppose it depends how many degree’s of separation you see between the two positions.

        3. “”You are sort of implying that if something is not fine and dandy then we need to invade it,””

          Perhaps it depends on specifics. Do we defend Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion?

          1. In retrospect, probably not. But, at the time George H. W. Bush had no way of knowing that there would some day be a thing called fracking and he was operating less than 20 years removed from the Arab oil embargo crippling the US economy. So from the perspective at the time, Saddam Huisain potentially being able to blackmail the western world by controlling so much oil and potentially Saudi Arabia’s as well was a big deal. Knowing what we know now, it would have been much less of a big deal than we thought it would be.

      2. Curious…or seriously delusional.

        The Middle East has been degenerating into a sinkhole of religious fanaticism and ignorance since the end of WWII, which coincidently is when the UN model of bootless diplomatic appeasement began. Had the West told the Arab Nations “You got the Palestinian refugees into this mess by starting a war with Israel and then losing. You need to take responsibility for them. Oh, and don’t choke off the oil supply if you don’t want us to come for a visit.”, we could have avoided SOOOOOO much trouble.

        Like it or not the Jihadis are at war with US. Pretending that this isn’t so doesn’t make the war go away. Punitive expeditions into pestholes like Syria may not have much chance of teaching the camel-pesterers not to come to our negative attention, but they are preferable to the alternative of conquest and rule. If we don’t want to end up running large portions of a region that has been torn by conflict as long as there have been written records (and I certainly don’t) we need to establish a pattern of short interventions that teach the lesson “Keep it to yourselves. Or we will drop enough munitions on you to break things up and hope the next bunch of ninnies has better manners.”

  2. Democrats turn NeoCon on foreign policy in 3…2…1…

    1. It’s their natural habitat.

      The differences between using the coercive power of the state to solve problems like racism in our country and problems like religious animosity in Syria are mostly procedural. They need to establish the coercive power of the state, first, in a place like Syria, but after that, it’s pretty much the same.

    2. When weren’t they?

  3. Trump is giving Syria to Putin!! Seriously, this is what the Neocon right is saying today. What do they think Putin is going to do with Syria other than go broke trying to stabilize it? The same goes for Iran. If Iran and Russia want to run Syria, we should wish them luck with that.

    As far as ISIS goes, ISIS, like Al Quada, is just a banner anyone can pick up and fight for. As far as I am concerned, every time an ISIS fighter dies, it is the feel good story of the day. But, no one should kid themselves into thinking wiping ISIS off the fact of the earth in Syria is going to destroy ISIS. It won’t. ISIS will exist as long as there is someone, somewhere willing to claim to fight for it. In fact, even if ISIS remains in control of some parts of Syria, that isn’t an entirely bad thing. Better for ISIS fighters to have a place to flock to and hopefully die defending than having them cause mischeif and mayhem where they are.

  4. Go back to the Spanish-American war of 1898. Ostensible purpose was to kick Spain out of the Americas, but somehow we ended up in the Philippines too, stomping out the rebellion we inherited, then turning around and telling them they’d be free in 1946. Nice timing, BTW.

    Nothing but trouble. Owning the Philippines and Guam and probably some other Pacific islands had no benefits and plenty of liabilities.

    Just say NO to foreign entanglements. I’d get rid of treaties, embassies, ambassadors, foreign aid, all that claptrap. If foreigners want American aid, convince the American people to donate personally. If foreigners want to screen incoming American tourists, that’s their business; do it here, do it there, your choice, not my problem. And if foreigners want to come here, come on in, have some fun, enjoy the place, stay as long as you want.

    But get rid of the foreign entanglements.

    1. The reason why we eneded up doing all fo that was that everyone in the 19th Century was convinced that having foreign colonies and the captive markets that came with them was essential to have a modern growing economy. The entire 19th Century can be summed up by the famous Bastiat quote “When goods don’t cross borders, Soldiers will” only not in the way he meant it. When goods didn’t cross borders, soliders did but not because the goods didn’t cross borders but out of the fanatical desire to ensure that they did at any cost.

      1. GB abandoned mercantilism a decade before California was a state.

        1. That just meant they allowed colonies access to British markets. It did not end their desire to have colonies and the access to those markets having them meant.

          1. ‘everyone in the 19th Century was convinced that having…captive markets…was essential to have a modern growing economy.’

            just objecting to this. if it said the 18th century I don’t think I’d have objected.


    2. Owning the Philippines and Guam and probably some other Pacific islands had no benefits and plenty of liabilities.

      Objectively false unless you believe ships have infinite fuel or that transit time in war is inconsequential. It is not a coincidence that the places you mention have military bases.

      It’s less of an issue for modern warfare, but at the time it was a big deal.

      1. AT the time it was a big deal. But why did the US think it needed to be able to project its power all the way past the Far East such that it needed military basis in Guam and the Phillipenes? One clue is Admiral Perry showing up in Tokyo Harbor with four armed ships telling the Japanese it would be a good idea if they opened their markets to our goods.

        The whole thing was driven by the desire to use force and influence to open foreign markets to US goods.

        1. Maybe so, I can definitely agree that it was about projecting American power and influence. It’s also simply a truism that if the U.S. hadn’t gone there and done those things, someone else definitely would have. Naval bases worldwide are still valuable, even today, and lets be honest: islands are easy to take. No shipping, no food.

          1. No shipping no food for alot of places. But not for the US.

            1. It’s way, way worse on islands. For example, if shipping was cut off from Hawaii they’d run out of food in something like three days. Admittedly, this is also a function of how valuable the land is but an economic pivot like that takes too long to be effective during a siege.

      2. The US Navy only needed refueling stations across the Pacific because it had islands to protect across the Pacific.

        D’oh!

        1. Those islands turned out to be pretty useful in the 40’s though, right?

          1. Not really. We lost all of them to the Japanese and had to take them back anyway. So, having them in the first place turned out to be not useful at all.

            1. The Imperial Japanese Navy had to divide its forces to attack most Western military outposts in a week.

              Had the Japanese not had to attack all these areas nearly simultaneously, they could have sent most of their Imperial Navy ships to attack Midway and Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

              Japan controlling Hawaii and Midway would have prolonged WWII. America would have probably produced the atomic bombs when we did but having an island close enough to Japan to drop those bombs would have been a different story.

          2. Japan only attacked the US because the US had those islands. They probably could have left them all alone because FDR wanted to go to war to help Britain, not fight Japan; his soft spot for China was pretty weak compared to that for Britain and hatred of Hitler.

            Sure, the Philippines would have been good for attacking convoys bringing booty from the Dutch colonies and Malaysia. But FDR had little interest in starting a war, and the public had even less.

            But aside from all that — if the US had not occupied the Philippines and all those islands, there would have been no reason for Japan to attack the US.

            1. Your citation fell off.

  5. Chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga… Woo Woo !

    Nick G’s on the Trump Train !

    MAGA

  6. middle east paragon of stability before 9/11?

    1. 911 BC?

      1. not even then.

  7. Thank God Trump’s got no problem with declaring victory and going home no matter what. Our victory over ISIS was bigly fantastic, the most successful war ever in the history of warfare, the cheapest and easiest win of all time! Whatever you say, Donald, as long as the war’s over and done with and we quit sticking our dick in the hornet’s nest.

  8. The US should ask itself one question when devising our Syria policy: How can we most effectively counter the interests of Putin’s Russia?

    #LibertariansForGettingToughWithRussia
    #NeoconsAreBetterThanWhiteNationalists

  9. Oh, no.
    Not that!
    Pulling out of Syria (and the Middle East) will only stop federal spending of our excess capital we have all gained immorally and reduce the deaths of Americans.
    What kind of insanity is this?

  10. “One reason he has not visited troops in war zones, according to his aides, is that he does not really want American troops there in the first place.”

    What a fascist, authoritarian, war mongering, blah blah blah blah blah

    Obama talks the talk, Trump walks the walk

  11. We can’t leave. Slave markets aren’t fully economies of scale, yet.

  12. Al Qaeda was beaten in Iraq. Captured members sold out their comrades and locals reported any suspicious activity to Americans. If memory serves they were cornered in a few cities and staged one last hurrah and were routed by Iraqi troops.

    The leadership of Al Qaeda was radicalized well before the war.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/opi……html?_r=0

    The vacuum created by the Arab Spring allowed the remnants of Al Qaida to shift operations elsewhere, and they began to grow again.

  13. Al Qaeda was beaten in Iraq. Captured members sold out their comrades and locals reported any suspicious activity to Americans. If memory serves they were cornered in a few cities and staged one last hurrah and were routed by Iraqi troops.

    The leadership of Al Qaeda was radicalized well before the war.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/opi……html?_r=0

    The vacuum created by the Arab Spring allowed the remnants of Al Qaida to shift operations elsewhere, and they began to grow again.

  14. Hey, what about Aleppo?

  15. We lost over 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam, over 4400 in Iraq, over 2300 in Afghanistan, and more in Libya, Syria, etc. And to what end? We have high levels of suicides daily of soldiers. Coming from a military family, and with relatives at risk, I think we have to ask these hard questions of our leaders. If I’m not mistaken, Russia lost over 14,000 troops in Afghanistan in that ill-conceived foray into the hornet’s nest. They obviously didn’t learn their lesson any better that we have. Let them have Syria.

  16. This Libertarian Moment brought to you by Orange Man and the Deplorables who supported him over the hysterical pants shitting fits of Reason.

    You’re welcome.

  17. Great article, thanks!

    One thing that is factually inaccurate is “Bush is simply hell-bent on attacking Iraq because he can.” George W. Bush stated the Iraq War for the benefit of the Jewish state of Israel ( http://www.ipsnews.net/2004/03…..h-adviser/ ). Of course he did this with the help of Israel, the powerful Israel lobby and the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament based neocons ( http://deism.com/neoconsbible.htm ). Now those same powers are pushing US politicians from both parties to start another war for the Jewish state’s benefit, this time against Iran.

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