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Operation Rolling Plunder

Syria's famine sparked its civil war (Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock)

The Trump administration is preparing to sendmore troops into Syria as part of its illegal, cockamamie scheme to take control of the oil-producing areas in the eastern part of the country:

The Pentagon is preparing to send tanks and armored vehicles to Syrian oil fields, according to a U.S. official – a stunning reversal of President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the war-torn country after he declared victory over ISIS.

The deployment of heavy armor to Syria would represent a significant escalation in the fight, requiring a contingent of additional troops to operate and maintain the vehicles, as well as forces to protect their bases.

This is Trump’s plunder doctrine in action, and it shows how easily the president can be convinced to order ill-conceived, unjustified, and illegal military deployments for the worst possible reasons. If there is one thing that can get Trump to commit to a pointless foreign intervention, it is the imaginary prospect of loot. U.S. forces have had no authorization to operate in Syria for the last five years, but up until now they have maintained the fiction that they were there as part of a specific counter-terrorism campaign. None of this has been authorized by Congress. All of it violates international law. It should remind us how mercurial and unreliable the president is, and it should rest to rest the idea that he has any interest in ending the American military presence in Syria.

This new mission makes no sense for U.S. interests, and it puts more Americans potentially at risk for no good reason. This deployment makes these soldiers a target without any prospect of achieving anything, and it will force them to spend most of their time focusing on their own protection to the exclusion of anything else. They are being sent garrison a part of Syria with no end in sight. This is the latest iteration in a series of dumb illegal Syria missions, and it is by far the least defensible. It has absolutely nothing to do with putting American interests first, and it obviously isn’t bringing anyone home. The new deployment makes a mockery of everything Trump has said about bringing endless wars to an end, but then no one should have believed a word he said.

U.S. forces in Syria are there illegally, and taking possession of the Syrian government’s property is likewise illegal. The U.S. won’t be able to make use of the oil resources, because no company will want the legal headaches that come from dealing in stolen property. No one will develop these fields, and so no one will benefit from them. U.S. troops will be stuck guarding these oil fields for the foreseeable future to satisfy the president’s whim. The result will be to deprive Syria of revenues it could use for reconstruction, and ultimately that means penalizing the population for the sake of spite.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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