Graham and Our Confused Syria Policy
Adam Taylor comments on Lindsey Graham’s recent claims about Syria policy:
What explains Graham’s newfound optimism about Trump’s plan to leave Syria?
Well, there is one big but rather confusing reason. In Graham’s retelling, Trump’s plan to leave Syria sounds suspiciously like a plan to stay in Syria — one that could be extended indefinitely, too. Speaking to reporters Sunday, Graham described Trump’s Syria plan as a “pause situation” rather than a withdrawal.
Graham is an interventionist fanatic, so it should raise red flags about the supposed Syria withdrawal that he is no longer concerned about it. It is possible that Graham is spinning what Trump told him and trying to box the president in with these public statements, but if that were the case Trump would presumably reject Graham’s interpretation in a series of angry tweets. The fact that Trump hasn’t done that suggests that Syria withdrawal isn’t happening or will happen so slowly as to make little difference. Graham describes Trump’s Syria policy this way:
I learned a lot from President @realDonaldTrump about our efforts in Syria that was reassuring. (1/3)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 30, 2018
Considering these three elements, a full withdrawal would not be possible in the immediate future.
If U.S. forces are still supposed to remain in Syria long enough to make sure that “Iran doesn’t fill in the back end,” that is essentially indistinguishable from the earlier Bolton position of an indefinite military presence until Iranian forces leave. It makes no difference to U.S. security whether or not Iran keeps some of its forces in Syria or “fills in the back end” after our withdrawal, and it is not our government’s responsibility to police any part of Syria for any length of time.
It can’t be stressed enough how unnecessary and illegal an American military presence in Syria is. Keeping troops there has nothing to do with U.S. or allied security, and the most vocal advocates of keeping them there indefinitely are driven by an obsessive hostility to Iran that blinds them to the costs and risks of further involvement in Syria. Congress never authorized any U.S. mission in Syria against anyone, and no president had the authority to order U.S. forces into harm’s way in that country. Our Syria policy for at least the last four years has been in flagrant violation of the Constitution and international law, and it has been divorced from U.S. interests from the very beginning.