I think that there is a bipartisan agreement that Syria is a mess. I opposed sending troops to Syria. I resisted it during the Obama Administration, and I opposed such action during the Trump Administration without congressional approval and a clear military objective and exit strategy.
First, I need to provide some background on where I stand in regards to U.S. military intervention in the world.
While I would have never identified myself as a neo-con (I think it’s a pejorative term used for people who don’t 100 percent agree with non-interventionists and isolationists), I did support military action in Afghanistan in 2001 and later in Iraq.
Looking back on the Iraq War, I would not support such an action today as there was never a link to Al Qaeda or Islamic terrorists. That said, I’m glad that Saddam Hussein is gone, but the government that replaced him to this day is still unstable.
I support an orderly withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as we have been there for 18 years, and the mission is unclear. I don’t believe in perpetual war.
I believe the tactics of fighting Islamic terrorism has changed and that large deployments are, primarily, unnecessary. I support maintaining a light footprint in the Middle East for special operations targeting Islamic terrorists when they threaten American citizens and American interests.
I also believe Congress needs to revisit the War Powers Act and revise it to scale back the President’s war-making ability without a declaration of war.
All that to say is that my position is complicated. I’m neither a neo-con, nor am I a non-interventionist. I believe the idea that if we pull out of the Middle East entirely that Islamic terrorists will leave us alone is naive at best and dangerous at worst.
So, with that said, back to Syria. President Trump’s decision to withdraw 50-100 special operation troops from northeastern Syria to make way for Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurds is a wrongheaded move.
First, this isn’t a complete withdrawal of American troops from Syria. The Trump administration can’t even claim that they are attempting to roll back our presence there. This action capitulates to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who acts more like a thug than a statesman.
Second, while the Trump Administration does not endorse and will not participate in Turkey’s military action against the Kurds, a U.S. withdrawal allowed it to happen. Keeping our troops in place in northeastern Syria would not have put us into conflict with Turkey, it would have stopped their action against the Kurds.
Third, the Kurdish people, both in Iraq and in Syria, have been reliable allies. President Trump just threw them under the bus. We need moderate Muslims like the Kurds to step up to fight groups like ISIS on their home turf, so we don’t have to have significant deployments of troops. The Kurds, and groups like them, help achieve the goal of winding down our military presence in the Middle East. This action by the Trump Administration is counter-productive to that goal. It also provides Russia with an opportunity to extend its influence in the region.
Fourth, it’s immoral to use the Kurds in our fight against ISIS and then abandon them to an invasion that puts not just militants but women and children in harm’s way. The Trump administration sent an awful message to future allies.
Syria’s a mess, but this decision by the Trump administration just made it worse.