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An Illegal War in Syria That Just Won’t End

The size of the residual U.S. force staying in Syria continues to grow [1]:

The U.S. military is crafting plans to keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria, U.S. officials said, a shift that comes three months after President Trump ordered a complete withdrawal and is far more than the White House originally intended.

Protracted administration talks with Turkey, European allies and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have so far failed to secure an agreement to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria, part of Mr. Trump’s plan for leaving Syria.

The U.S. now plans to keep working with Kurdish fighters in Syria, despite Turkish threats to cross the border and attack the Kurds, the U.S. officials said. The proposal could keep as many as 1,000 American forces, spread from the north of Syria to the south, they said.

Micah Zenko points out that the real number of personnel involved, including contractors, will be even higher than that:

At the rate things are going, there will probably be more U.S. troops in Syria at the end of Trump’s term than there were at the beginning. There will almost certainly be some troops in Syria for many more years. U.S. withdrawal from Syria is long overdue, and it should have been one of the easiest foreign policy decisions for Trump to carry out. The fact that he can’t follow through on one of his only defensible decisions shows both his own weakness as president and testifies to his terrible judgment in selecting advisers and Cabinet officials that will fight to keep the U.S. in illegal and unnecessary wars.

The failure to withdraw from Syria was predictable and predicted, but that doesn’t make it any less discouraging. The dysfunction and lack of organization in the making of foreign policy under Trump have given the officials serving him enormous latitude to make policy according to their own preferences. Under Bolton as National Security Advisor, both the dysfunction and the influence of key officials have increased in tandem.

This is another Trump failure, but the more important thing to take away from this is that there is virtually no war so illegal or unnecessary that our political and military leaders won’t fight to continue it. The U.S. seems incapable of ending its involvement in any foreign conflict. Even when there is broad majority support in Congress to halt U.S. involvement, as there is for the war on Yemen, the White House and the Pentagon will resist to the bitter end. Even when there is absolutely no legal authority for our troops to be operating in Syria, apparently not even the president is able to bring our involvement to an end.

The continued U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal under U.S. and international law. Every day that U.S. troops remain in Syria is another day that Trump and the Syria hawks trample on the Constitution. That would be bad enough by itself, but to make matters worse the administration is breaking these laws for the sake of a policy that makes no sense and serves no American interests. A residual force of 1,000 can’t do much of anything except serve as a potential target, and the soldiers serving there are being put at risk for the sake of a mission that is both illegal and unrelated to American security.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "An Illegal War in Syria That Just Won’t End"

#1 Comment By jk On March 17, 2019 @ 9:31 pm

Trump’s only minuscule appeal was his foreign policy stance. Well, it’s obviously a lie or he really is stupid enough to delegate everything to his neocon stacked cabinet and insult his base.

What I am concerned about is that if any Democrat 2020 contender will campaign at Hillary-McCain levels of hawkishness but see a groundswell of support when it is only that people are tired of Trump’s lies.

The pollsters and consultants would misinterpret the appeal that US people outside the swamp and coastal areas want such a policy when it is only a response from Trump betraying everyone that somewhat liked him.

All we have now is Gabbard and somewhat Sanders.

#2 Comment By Stephen J. On March 17, 2019 @ 10:19 pm

Excellent article.
You rightly state: “The continued U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal under U.S. and international law.”
Yet Trump is on record as saying: “We are a nation of laws”

‘A Nation of Laws’

“We are a nation of laws,” their leader said
If his words are true, why are so many people slaughtered and dead?
His nation invaded a number of countries illegally
Now these countries are destroyed and no longer live peacefully

Millions are dead, and millions are homeless
Is his ‘nation of laws’ really atrocious?
Millions are refugees who once had homes
Does his ‘nation of laws’ hear these peoples’ groans?

His ‘nation’ supplies weapons to murderous dictators
It even trains terrorists. Is that not traitorous?
He says they are ‘a nation of laws’ and that sounds good
Yet his ‘nation’ bombs and kills unlawfully; is that not lewd?

His ‘nation’ uses torture and trains torturers
Is this the actions of depraved murderers?
But if they are ‘a nation of laws,’ or so he says
Does his ‘nation’ know the meaning of hypocrisy today?

His and other vassal nations fired missiles into Syria
That is a war crime, despite all their unctuous hysteria
‘A nation of laws’ would not participate in illegal acts
That is a true statement, and those are the facts

He leads a ‘nation’ that really has no shame
Is he mentally challenged or could he be insane?
For no sane person would attempt to hide or disguise
Or explain away the war criminal actions of firing missiles from the skies

His is a ‘nation’ that has other nations in their war gangs
Are they all preparing the world for one last big bang?
Are he and other war criminals really all scofflaws?
Does anyone believe he and his gang lead ‘nations of laws’?…
[more info on this at link below]

#3 Comment By BT Reynolds On March 18, 2019 @ 8:22 am

I’ve been amazed at how gullible Trump supporters have been. Everyone knew that he was a NY huckster and a BS artist before he became president, yet they wore their MAGA hats and voted for him anyway.

A man who can’t be faithful to his trophy wife certainly isn’t going to be faithful to any ideas or to the yahoos that voted for him.

#4 Comment By furbo On March 18, 2019 @ 9:10 am

Can we agree that the defeat of ISIS in Syria is a good thing at least? The Syrian Kurds did the lions share of fighting/killing/dying on the ground as our proxy’s in this action. If external forces leave (us, European allies) the Turks will cross the border and slaughter them – period. That is the primary concern driving this. The Nation best placed to ensure Kurdish security is…Russia. They wont be leaving any time soon and appreciate what the kurds have accomplished. Unfortunately our poisonous political climate makes detente, let alone open cooperation with Russia politically impossible even when it is clearly in our interests.

#5 Comment By Salt Lick On March 18, 2019 @ 9:12 am

Israel said ‘No” to removing US forces from Syria, along the lines of we will attack Syria if you remove US troops because Iran won’t leave and they support Hezbollah. Israel determines US policy in the Middle East in case you haven’t noticed. That’s why we are going to war with Iran next year which will involve a full-scale assault on Iran’s Syrian forces. Trump wants to run as a War President to squelch his rivals and Netanyahu has already declared his intentions to take out his arch enemy Iran.

Maintaining the forward position in Syria for no apparent reason, in contradiction of a campaign promise and in violation of the US Consitution and International Law is not due to intransigence. We will be fighting Iran across the Middle East and the theatre of operations will include many countries we are presently occupying. This the end of the beginning. Now comes the final act.

#6 Comment By Sid Finster On March 18, 2019 @ 10:16 am

The Syrian Kurds did not do the lion’s share of anything.

ISIS was defeated by the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbullah, Iran and Russia.

That said, the Kurds would be well advised to turn to Russia for protection.

#7 Comment By NO Hope On March 18, 2019 @ 10:20 am

In response to Furbo,
The Syrian army, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia did the majority of the fighting. It is not in the best interests of the United States to maintain any type of military presence at all in Syria. There is great risk of the USA becoming involved in a much larger war considering the actions of Israel and Mr. Trump. The Kurds will have to cut some deal with the Syrian government and be done with it. I regret my foolish belief that Trump was serious about getting out of Syria.

#8 Comment By wootendw On March 18, 2019 @ 2:40 pm

“…there is virtually no war so illegal or unnecessary that our political and military leaders won’t fight to continue it.”

True but there is more than one reason for this, the one reason being jobs and money.

Another reason is the ‘concept’ of victory or winning versus defeat or losing. This notion is ingrained into all of us from childhood playground.

If you really think about it, there is no intelligent reason for one person or ‘team’ to outdo another person/team, simply for the sake of outdoing him/them. Sure, there’s a good reason for, say, a professional tennis player to win (money) but that only happens because the spectators waste big money (and time) to see the contest. (I used to be a spectator at some baseball games and time-wasting one for other sports on TV).

Sports and competition are promoted heavily in military life but, in war, there is really no such thing as winning. No one wants to the military to leave Afghanistan because it means ‘losing’ to the Taliban (even though bin Laden’s dead). Ditto for ‘losing’ to Assad. Hillary laughed at Qaddafi’s defeat but didn’t ‘win’ the presidency.

Let’s forget winning vs losing and leave competition to the marketplace.

#9 Comment By SteveK9 On March 18, 2019 @ 10:16 pm

You really have to wonder at this point, whether Trump has any power at all.

#10 Comment By Deacon Blue On March 19, 2019 @ 10:04 am

Excellent article.

Our remaining 1,000 troops (plus miscellaneous “contractors” and CIA types) are indeed simply “targets.” I wonder if these people know this. That is, their job (apparently) is to be attacked (maybe killed), giving the U.S. its reason to escalate its presence in Syria, perhaps start an all-out war.

We also have more possibilities for “false flag” attacks with the same goal.

Yes, our troops will remain in Syria. (Kind of like Britain isn’t leaving the European Union). The powers that be/elite who are really making the decisions have deigned this so.

#11 Comment By Procopius On March 19, 2019 @ 10:50 pm

This plan assumes that Syria, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Hezballah have no say in the matter. The Iraqi parliament is considering a demand that America remove its troops from that country. They certainly believe that ISIS is defeated, or at least reduced to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub. If that should happen, then supplying American troops (and contractors) becomes problematic. Would America declare war on Syria in order to establish a supply line from the Mediterranean to al Tanf? Would Turkey attack the Kurds (which they clearly want to do) if the Kurds work a deal with Syria (which they are working on even now)? Almost all American reporting on this ignores the main actors on the ground, which do not include the U.S. forces.