Home/Daniel Larison/Our Perpetual, Illegal War in Syria

Our Perpetual, Illegal War in Syria

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

The Pentagon confirmed that U.S. forces will be staying in Syria forever:

The US military plans to stay in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Tuesday.

“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.

If “supporting partners” and “preventing” terrorist groups from returning are the reasons for keeping U.S. forces in Syria, there will never be a time when those forces won’t be “needed.” There will always be some group that the U.S. can identify as a “partner” that we must not “abandon,” and there will always be the possibility that a terrorist group could enter Syria at some point in the future. Thanks to the Trump administration’s policy, the U.S. is going to be policing some part of Syria with no end in sight. It is mission creep of the mindless sort, and sooner or later it is going to cost the lives of Americans that should never have been there.

It would be one thing if “our commitment” in Syria had been made by Congress and was in any way related to U.S. security, but it wasn’t and it isn’t. U.S. forces have been operating illegally inside Syria for three years. Congress never authorized any of this, and there was certainly never any approval of an open-ended deployment in another country’s territory without their government’s permission. Every day that U.S. forces operate inside Syria without their government’s approval, the U.S. is flagrantly violating international law. Every day that U.S. forces stay in Syria is another day when they are in danger of clashing with the Syrian military and the forces of Syria’s patrons. Their presence needlessly exposes them to danger in a country where the U.S. has little at stake, and it runs the risk of sparking a larger conflict as long as they remain there.

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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