Foreign Policy

Bringing Them Home? Trump Commits 1,800 More Troops to the Middle East

If Trump wants credit for ending wars in the Middle East, he'll have to actually reduce the number of Americans deployed there.

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It was just four days ago that President Donald Trump explained his decision to move American troops out of one part of Syria by saying that it was "time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars…and bring our soldiers home."

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would be sending about 1,800 additional troops to the Middle East.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathon Hoffman said the new deployments were part of an overall strategy "to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia."At a press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the new deployments were made in consultation with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense.

Including the newly announced deployment, the U.S. will have increased the number of troops deployed to the Middle East by 14,000 since May, CNN reports.

Getting out? Bringing them home? Hardly. As Reason contributor Bonnie Kristian pointed out earlier this week, Trump's "haphazard half-measure" in Syria was not a meaningful step toward ending the endless wars. "If Trump is serious about liquidating unnecessary, failed, costly overseas missions," she wrote," he must actually end them."

But Trump says he has "no plans at all" to withdraw American forces from Iraq, where they've been fighting since 2003. His promise to withdraw from Afghanistan has so far failed to materialize (though the administration is involved in negotiations with the Taliban there). When Congress passed a bipartisan resolution that would have cut off American aid to Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen—a conflict that has triggered a famine, killing an estimated 50,000 civilians—Trump vetoed it.

And whether or not you agree with Trump's move this week in Syria, it should be obvious that moving a few dozen troops from one side of Syria to another is not the same as bringing them home.

Trump has said the right things about bipartisan support for endless wars, and so far he has resisted the urge to expand America's Middle East quagmire into Iran. But that's simply not good enough. Instead of extracting the country from these messy and unwinnable wars in the Middle East, Trump is sending more troops to boost an authoritarian regime—and risking that they'll be drawn into a head-on confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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  1. Woops, there goes the narrative. Sorry, kurds.

    1. Just think how slighted the Kurds would have been if Obama hadn’t started 3 civil wars in the middle east!

      1. “But Obama!”

        1. Yes jeff. We know you love hypocrisy.

          1. Like your constant worship of Trump isn’t riddled with hyprocrisy about things you fault anyone to the left of Alex Jones for.

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  2. Still coddling the depraved Saudis and Israel’s immoral right-wing belligerents.

    So much for any principled element to the decision to betray the Kurds.

    Carry on, clingers. You have about another year. After that, replacement.

    1. It’s hilarious when the rabid anti-Semites have to somehow square our endless support for the wahhabist Saudi empire as a Jewish conspiracy.

      1. All these Middle east & N. African wars are for Israel!!!…WAKE UP…America is run by Zio-Nazis on BOTH SIDES & has been for many years now! AIPAC pays off BOTH SIDES!!!

  3. “to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia.”

    Locked and loaded is now a reality. Sheesh.

  4. Obama escalated in the Middle East, so Trump can do it too.

    It’s like kids being kids. “But Billy did it first!” I sort of expect better from my leaders than this sort of puerile gamesmanship.

    1. Except that deploying 1800 troops to a country not experiencing any military conflict is slightly different from starting 3 separate civil wars and arming the warring factions after you’re done. But hey, flog that narrative.

      1. But hey, flog that narrative.

        Why? You’re doing pretty well flogging your own.

    2. You’d think Trump’s obsession with undoing every last Obama policy would extend to the middle East, but nope, because that the real powers actually care about. The national security crowd, defense contractors, Israel… Trump is just a child, he doesn’t have actual moral convictions, so won’t be crossing them.

      1. That made absolutely no sense.

        “The national security crowd”
        Let’s ask Bolton, Romney and Graham about that.
        “Israel…”
        Yes, propping up the Wahhabis is a Zionist priority.

  5. Middle East imploding!

  6. defense of Saudi Arabia from what?

  7. Once again, Amash > Rand.

    1. Libertarians for perpetual war in Syria!

      1. When in doubt, mis-characterize.

      2. Reason comment section libertarians are for whatever Republicans want.

        1. Better than what Democrats want.

    2. How sticky is your poster of Amash?

  8. The middle east is a garbage dumpster fire that needs to be abandoned. It is full of people with lesser evolved brains who cant get over religious land wars and ideologies. They need to be left alone to fight it out to the death among themselves, while we keep our soldiers alive, and stop funding their deaths with our resources and tax dollars.

    We aren’t their policemen and at some point their peoples/societies need to sink or swim on their own.

  9. “Bringing Them Home? Trump Commits 1,800 More Troops to the Middle East”

    Am I to understand that Boehm can’t tell the difference between withdrawing troops from a hostile quagmire and committing troops to ally who wants us to station them there?

    I have my own criticisms of deploying troops to Saudi Arabia, but I can still tell the difference between apples and oranges.

    1. Incidentally, when the first reason you can think of to criticize something is “because it makes Trump look bad”, you probably have TDS.

      The best reason not to station American troops in Saudi Arabia starts with the Khobar Towers bombing and ends with 9/11.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khobar_Towers_bombing

      Did we learn nothing about why triggering extremist Muslims unnecessarily by stationing troops in their holy land is a bad idea?

      It doesn’t matter if the present government is supportive of or even enthusiastic about our stationing troops there. Muslim extremists have a thing about foreign troops being stationed in their holy land, and whatever advantage we gain by stationing troops there is probably not worth the risk we take on by crossing that line.

      Even George W. Bush–neocon freak that he was–realized after 9/11 that keeping troops in Saudi Arabia was more trouble than it was worth. For goodness’ sake, sell them more weapons if you have to, but I oppose stationing troops in Saudi Arabia.

      1. Even George W. Bush–neocon freak that he was–realized after 9/11 that keeping troops in Saudi Arabia was more trouble than it was worth.

        Yeah – I half suspected at the time and ever since that part of the logic of invading Iraq was to have a place to station troops in the region other than Saudi Arabia, since clearly certain groups get touchy about that.

        1. Most of the personnel and admin infrastructure that was at PSAB got moved to Qatar; Iraq was incidental to that.

      2. So you’re saying terrorism works, Ken?
        If the US refrains from stationing troops on holy Muslim land because of lessons learned from Khobar Towers and 9/11, most (definitely the attacker) must conclude that those terrorist attacks were successful.

        1. So you’re saying terrorism works, Ken?

          So, you’re saying we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes?

          If another 9/11 could be avoided because we’re smart enough not to enrage terrorists (or their would-be recruits) unnecessarily–because we decided not to do something that doesn’t really make any difference to us anyway–you think we should do it just because?

          How many 9/11s are you willing to suffer before we’ve finally shown the terrorists that we can station troops in their holy land–whether we need to or not–before you’re satisfied?

          We’ve spent trillions and trillions of taxpayer money–not to mention lost the lives and limbs of thousands of American heroes–and you think that’s worth it just to prove that we can station troops in a place that doesn’t really matter to us anyway?

          To the extent that people think patriotism is stupid, it’s because of people like you.

          Meanwhile, Muslims have been sensitive about having non-Muslim troops stationed in their holy land since before the First Crusade.

          If you’re being sarcastic, I’ll cite Poe’s Law.

          If you’re being serious, then you’re a fucking idiot in the technical sense–since an idiot is someone who is so self-absorbed by their own weird preoccupations that they can hardly be bothered to notice reality.

          Aside: If there’s anything dumber than the suggestion that we should station troops in the Muslim holy land–no matter how many American lives it costs and no matter how much it costs the taxpayers–until Muslims no longer care about something they’ve cared about since 622 CE, it’s the suggestion that we should do so over something that we don’t really care about probably shouldn’t be doing anyway.

      3. Leave it to Ken S. to have the cold-blooded analysis of the situation. Withdrawing the troops from an about-to-be war zone in Syria is a good thing even if they’re still somewhere in Syria. Sending troops to Saudi Arabia is a bad thing for the reason stated (plus implicating the USA more in Yemen, although you could say that ship’s long sailed), although not as bad as putting them in a war zone.

        Should we care what that all says about Trump? Not unless someone was right on the margin of whether to vote for him in 2020, and even then I couldn’t say whether this is an overall plus or minus.

        Trouble is, the US State Department is unfortunately practically an extension of the main arm of the British Foreign Office, and while presidents come and go, that stays.

    2. Yes = there is a huge difference between withdrawing troops from a hostile quagmire and committing troops to ally who wants us to station them there. 100%, no debate.

      But….Why were we asked in the first place and what are we getting ourselves into?

      We have a long-standing relationship with KSA that extends back 80 years. I am mindful of that. However, we are not allies by formal treaty that I am aware of. I’d only want the US troops to be involved as an absolute last resort. And when I say last resort, I mean the Iranians invaded KSA and we need to kick them out like we did with Iraq in Persian Gulf War. THAT kind of last resort. We are not at that point. And hopefully never will be. Note that I am also perfectly fine with selling KSA boatloads of weapons and training them how to use it. In fact, the more they buy, the better for us. I’m good with that.

      Also, the Europeans and Japanese have much more of a stake in the continued health of KSA than the US does. If KSA needs protection, and they might well need it given events of the last year, Europe and Japan should belly up to the bar.

      Yes, help a friend who asks….but be endlessly wary.

      1. I might oppose signing a formal treaty with the state of Saudi Arabia for a number of reasons.

        1) Since the House of Saud could fall at any time, we might find ourselves committed in any way to an agreement with a state that might someday be actively working against us.

        2) We don’t want to get dragged into every war the Saudis launch just because they provoke an attack against them.

        3) Israel is a valuable ally against Iran, and if we were formally committed to the defense of both Israel and Saudi Arabia, we might not be able to take advantage of our unofficial alliance with either one.

        All that being said, even China is cutting ties with Iran over their recent provocations. Much of the shipping that’s being threatened as it moves through the Strait of Hormuz by Iran is bound for China. Both China and Russia acquiesced to the sanctions against Iran for violating the NPT because they don’t want a nuclear armed Iran either.

        If it were constitutionally necessary for Congress to authorize each and every thing the Commander in Chief does with the armed forces, I would support Congress authorizing the president to act defensively in support of Saudi assets on the basis that Trump has done so far–with the exception of Trump putting troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia.

        It doesn’t need to be a permanent arrangement. Just, okay, you can do this for now.

        All that being said, Trump’s reluctance to retaliate against Iran on Saudi Arabia’s behalf, up to this point–despite Iran’s many provocations–has been nothing short of impressive. Bush Jr., Obama, or Hillary probably would have retaliated by now already.

        1. “All that being said, even China is cutting ties with Iran over their recent provocations.”

          They’ll be back when the Democrats regain the presidency. There’s plenty of money to be made from Iranian gas.

        2. Ken, great response…thanks! A couple of quick points.

          I would oppose a formal treaty with KSA, period. Concur with your points above (and your 9/11 point upthread). I am not so sure about China cutting ties, though. Let’s just say I have to see a hell of a lot more before I believe that.

          I would support Congress authorizing the president to act defensively in support of Saudi assets on the basis that Trump has done so far–with the exception of Trump putting troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia – Then Congress should invoke the War Powers Act. It has never been tested. Perhaps it should be. POTUS Trump is committing troops to KSA (temporarily, right?) and properly, the Congress should expressly authorize that.

          POTUS Trump is being smart = reluctance to retaliate against Iran on Saudi Arabia’s behalf

          1. “I am not so sure about China cutting ties, though. Let’s just say I have to see a hell of a lot more before I believe that.”

            Here’s the evidence of that happening:

            “China National Petroleum Corp. has pulled out of a $5 billion natural-gas project in Iran as escalating tensions threaten to sever Beijing’s trade with Tehran, a key lifeline for the Islamic Republic.

            The exit by Beijing—which had vowed to resist U.S. restrictions on Iran—is a blow to Tehran’s attempts to fight growing economic isolation and comes after Washington brought new sanctions on Chinese companies still trading with Iran.

            . . . .

            Tehran had hoped the Chinese state-run company would replace France’s Total SA, which left the project last year after the U.S. reinstated sanctions on Iran.

            Iran needs the development to move forward to supply natural gas for its power stations. But CNPC officials have said the company struggled to find banking channels to transfer funds to Iran due to U.S. pressure. CNPC’s own bank, Bank of Kunlun, which is the main conduit for China’s Iran trades, has told customers it no longer accepts trades with the Islamic Republic . . . .

            Other Chinese companies—in sectors ranging from banking to autos to tech—have pulled back from Iran in recent months after the U.S. moved to squeeze the country’s oil exports and designated its paramilitary force a terrorist organization.

            —-WSJ, October 6, 2019

            https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-pulls-out-of-giant-iranian-gas-project-11570372087?

            These are essentially state owned companies doing business with China for strategic reasons. These companies and China have been openly defiant of U.S. sanctions up until now. Things seem to have started changing when it became clear that Iran was behind the attacks on shipping lanes and infrastructure used to send oil to China. You’ll hear all sorts of explanations from China, but the fact is that they’re pulling back their support of Iran, and it seems to be because they’re squeezing China’s oil supply. It’s all fun and games until somebody starts fucking with their oil supply.

            1. “These are essentially state owned [Chinese] companies doing business with China [Iran] for strategic reasons.”

              Fixed!

      2. We have a long-standing relationship with KSA that extends back 80 years.

        And by “we”, you mean the British Foreign Office, and over 100 years?

        1. No, I mean the United States, and I meant 80 years.

    3. “from a hostile quagmire ”

      So Saudi Arabia is not a hostile quagmire? Debatable. Best way to find out is to station some troops there and see. Any neo con will tell you so.

      1. Hostility? Quagmire? Who ever heard those terms associated with Saudi Arabia?

        1. Ken will tell us we have the prince’s word that this time will be different.

  10. We have troops stationed in Korea and Japan. The Saudis probably don’t want active American military campaigns in any of their territory.

    “It’s not enough to want to end wars, it has to be done”. Yeah but the media and democrats will not allow it to happen. Watch how media is trumpeting the “Trump is slaughtering our allies” line one might expect from John Mccain’s camp to justify our presence there. Do you ever think that the democrats will EVER join Trump in wanting to pull troops out? You have a republican president who wants out and a GOP who will let him do it, and all the pacifists apparently don’t want to take advantage.

    When Trump banned bump stocks, no one cared, so he did it, despite some grumbling from his own camp. If he (as commander chief) tries to pull out of wars or set immigration policy, the rabid socialists will ashen their heads and rend their clothes in opposition, because the orange man is dead. Before Trump, we’d have to pull out Syria because we’re feeding the industrial military complex and endless wars are bad and the notion of betraying our allies are neocon talking points. After Trump, we have to stay for protect all those ethnic minorities you didn’t care about when he wasn’t president!

    1. Boehm is stupid about the economy, so why wouldnt his Propaganda about this issue be any different?

      Boehm is literally comparing US troop deployments to a country where they wont get killed and their presence might stave off a war with Iran to troop deployments to active zones.

      Trump sent 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but has an overall troop reduction in war zones and he has not started a new war.

      Of course we should close US bases overseas and bring most US troops home and have a defensive home turf strategy. That does not mean that US troops can never be deployed overseas again for temporary missions.

      1. “Boehm is literally comparing US troop deployments to a country where they wont get killed”

        What is the point of sending troops to a country where they won’t be killed? If protecting the lives of troops is Trump’s primary responsibility, shouldn’t he be bringing them safely home instead of sending them to places like Saudi Arabia, a country with a history of murdering American forces stationed there?

        1. Wouldn’t you rather pull duty guarding the king’s palace? That way the king can send more of his own to show those Yemeni something, which is unfortunate but at least won’t get you killed.

    2. “After Trump, we have to stay for protect all those ethnic minorities you didn’t care about when he wasn’t president!”

      I think Americans in general have always had something of a soft spot for the kurds. It’s not something that only democrats have glommed onto to beat Trump with.

    3. “The Saudis probably don’t want active American military campaigns in any of their territory.”

      We originally built infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to support our forces there during the Reagan administration–it was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. It was a function of the Cold War and the importance of Saudi oil at the time–married to the fear that Iran wanted Mecca for religious reasons. Given the way resources disappeared into the black hole of communism during the Cold War, controlling Saudi oil might have let the Cold War go another way–it certainly wasn’t clear we were winning the Cold War from the perspective of 1980.

      Our support for Saddam Hussein was largely driven by his willingness to fight the Iranians for that reason. When Saddam Hussein became the threat to the Saudi oil fields in 1991, all that infrastructure was already in place–and the Saudi government thrilled to have there to defend them from Saddam Hussein.

      Whether the legitimate government supports our presence is a big one. It’s the difference between an alliance and an occupation. The problem with the Saudis is that it isn’t entirely clear how legitimate their government is at any given time. It’s possible for vicious dictators to enjoy a tremendous amount of legitimacy, with Chavez, Duterte, and Putin providing examples of that, but the Saudis aren’t even elected by sham.

      The Saudi government is a vicious dictatorship, and when we stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, the fact that Muslims have an extreme religious aversion to having foreign troops stationed in their holy land wasn’t the only problem. The other problem was that because the House of Saud is a vicious dictatorship, terrorists organizations argued that the troops weren’t really there to protect the Saudi oil fields from Iran or Saddam Hussein. They were really there to protect the House of Saud from the people of Saudi Arabia.

      It wasn’t just the Saudi regime we supported that way during the Cold War. It was the same way with Hussein in Iraq and Mubarak in Egypt, as well. One of the hardest things I ever had to persuade anyone of was Muslim acquaintances that those alliances were primarily about securing oil for the free world during the Cold War. In fact, our relationship with Israel is primarily a legacy of their importance during the Cold War. Try convincing Muslims from the Middle East of that!

      They think it’s all about the conquest of their holy land, the attempt to keep Muslims under dictatorship, etc., etc.

      There is no good reason to think stationing American troops in Saudi Arabia this time will be any different in terms of the resentment it inflames and the perception that we’re there to protect the Saudi regime from the Saudi people. How would you feel if President Liz Warren cancelled all elections, suspended our Constitutional rights, and then brought Saudi Troops into the U.S. and stationed them there? I’d strongly suspect she were doing so to defend President Liz Warren from the American people–rather than anything else.

      We don’t want to play that part. We’ve done it before. It ends in tears.

      1. “One of the hardest things I ever had to persuade anyone of was Muslim acquaintances that those alliances were primarily about securing oil for the free world during the Cold War. In fact, our relationship with Israel is primarily a legacy of their importance during the Cold War. Try convincing Muslims from the Middle East of that!”

        No wonder your Muslim friends are having trouble understanding you. First. Israel has never been a player in the fossil fuel business. Not every middle eastern nation is. Their neighbor, Lebanon, also is a middle eastern nation without much in the way of fossil fuels. Second, Israel never was a pawn in the cold war. The first nation to recognize Israel as a state was the USSR under Stalin. The second was the USA under Trueman (no relation.). At the heighth of the cold war, 1956, Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt under Nasser, a client of the USSR at the time. Eisenhower, the US president, threatened economic sanctions against the invaders and the troops were ignominiously withdrawn. Vietnam was a cold war pawn. Israel no. Third, I don’t think you have to worry too much about Elizabeth Warren inviting Saudi troops to furnish her personal protection. Musings about Warren inviting Saudi troops to Washington will only bewilder your already confused Muslim friends.

  11. The true enemy to peace in the Middle east is Iran and has been for a very long time. They have carried the mantra of wiping Israel off the map, since the coup that put the Radical Immans into power. The US has used war to contain them if through Iraq invasions or others, but Iran’s support and maintains terrorist organizations in Palestine and Yemen, Africa and other countries. Even with different sects of Muslims real Al Qaeda terrorists exist, train and are supported in Iran. In the run to Iraq they emassed in Iran and were secreted into Iraq to wait for the US invasion. More support from Middle East Muslim countries has come from countries fearing the transgressions of Iran.

    Sending Troops is one thing and doing massive expensive rebuilding and contracting private armies is another. Keeping troops in war torn areas and sending troops to allied countries to our own established bases is another. They are two different things. The mass of wealth set for covert and insurgent forces is massive. This is what Trump speaks about not having US troops in established bases.

    US forces have been in and out of Saudi Arabia since the 70’s and is not the same as regime change mantra of Bush and Obama. Obama did not change American foreign policy it just changed its tools of change. Instead of soldiers, we used drones, contractors, social media, rebels, and cia to distract and/or topple foreign nations, even targeted Israel where Obama inserted social media troops to effect its elections.

    Trump not playing the same game, even when the mechanisms are still there that formed the bulk of regime change mantras. Contemplating every troop movement to entanglements is seeing all things as all things and not being able to see differences. Works well for gotca news or anti-empire war mantra but is disingenuous at best.

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