The Syrian Troop Withdrawal That Wasn’t

After calling for all U.S. troops to be pulled out of Syria, President Trump is now in favor of keeping a “small…stabilizing force” there. What a shame. Trump is the ultimate flip-flopper, bowing to the neo-cons and the Washington establishment whenever it’s expedient for him to do so.

What, exactly, is America’s national security interest in Syria? Trump says these US troops will help to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, but surely Syria, Turkey, Russia, and other countries in the region have more incentive – and far more capability – to keep the Islamic State down and out. But let’s say the Islamic State did make a comeback in Syria after all US troops left. In that case, couldn’t US troops just redeploy there? Why are “boots on the ground” needed in perpetuity in Syria to monitor the dead carcass of ISIS?

Once the US commits troops to a region or country, they seem to linger – and linger. In rare cases when troops finally are withdrawn and something bad happens, you instantly hear how it’s the fault of those who called for troop withdrawals, as if US troops bring stability wherever they go.

It’s a strange belief. The US celebrates its troops as warriors, trains them in kinetic operations, outfits them with the most destructive technologies, and then deploys them to bring stability and peace to regions those troops barely understand. For a different vision of the “stability” American troops bring, one might ask the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, to name only three recent examples.

It’s high time, America, that we bring the troops home. Our national defense is not advanced by worldwide troop deployments in the name of “stability.” Trump once seemed to recognize this, however fleetingly, as a candidate. As president, however, he’s become yet another pawn of US military interventionists and neo-cons. As Trump would say, sad.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

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