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Trump’s Illegal War in Syria Is Getting More Dangerous

Secretary Mattis claims [1] not to understand why pro-regime forces advanced on U.S.-backed rebels in eastern Syria:

In Washington, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described the situation as “perplexing,” and said he had “no idea why they would attack” the base. Both Russian and Syrian-aligned forces on the ground had long known the U.S. and allied forces were there, he said.

Perhaps Mattis is only feigning confusion here, but it isn’t encouraging that the head of our Defense Department claims not to know why forces aligned with the Syrian government might want to attack a base where the enemies of that government are located. They attacked the base because they “had long known the U.S. and allied forces were there.” They oppose the presence of “U.S. and allied forces” there. This should be clear by now. If our top leaders don’t know something as basic as this about the situation they are putting our soldiers in, that is deeply troubling. Mattis also “denied that the attack and the U.S. response constituted American engagement in the Syrian civil war,” but this is preposterous. By providing support to armed groups inside Syria and deploying our own forces alongside them, the U.S. is taking sides in the Syrian civil war whether our leaders want to acknowledge that involvement or not. By attacking pro-regime forces and killing dozens of their men, the U.S. has committed acts of war against another government on its own soil without Congressional or U.N. authorization.

As the threat of ISIS recedes, it becomes increasingly difficult use that threat to justify a U.S. military presence inside Syria. The pretense that an open-ended mission in Syria is solely aimed at opposing ISIS is not credible when U.S. officials explicitly state that an indefinite U.S. military presence is also intended to deny the Syrian government and its allies control over parts of Syria. The Syrian government and its allies did not try to stop U.S. intervention in Syria when it began in 2014, but they have never agreed to our military presence. As it happens, the Syrian government and its allies are correct when they describe our military presence there as illegal. Secretary Mattis isn’t able to counter those claims because there is absolutely no legal justification for having our troops in Syria and there never has been.

The smart thing to do now is to remove U.S. forces from Syria as soon as possible to ensure that there are no further clashes like this. If the Trump administration doesn’t do that, it will be inexorably pulled deeper into conflicts that serve no American interest.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Trump’s Illegal War in Syria Is Getting More Dangerous"

#1 Comment By non serviam On February 8, 2018 @ 9:45 pm

I mean, it’s becoming really ludicrous isn’t it? Mattis … what is he even saying? He sounds like a completely clueless buffoon.

Those who great assurance and aplomb stated that McMaster and Mattis et al would serve as “the adults in the room” are fools. But then we knew that already, didn’t we? Because those who said things like that about Mattis and McMaster were in many cases the same people who pushed us into stupid wars in Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.

#2 Comment By john On February 8, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

Ridiculous, a burglar sitting in your living room and watching your TV doesn’t get to “shoot you in self defense” should you object to his presence.

#3 Comment By Joseph Ammons On February 8, 2018 @ 10:45 pm

This is exactly how you find out if Trump is a dog and pony show

#4 Comment By Eric On February 8, 2018 @ 11:00 pm

Looks like Trump’s foreign policy is the same as Hillary Clinton’s would have been, endless war.

#5 Comment By a spencer On February 9, 2018 @ 1:41 am

I should have taken a picture: there was a Ford plant outside Damascus in Assad’s Syria as late as 2008.

One time, coming out of Zahle and heading back to Damascus, there was a range of drivers available to cross the border. Of course, I chose the guy with the musclebound 70s Chevy. He floored it on the Syrian plain for the better part of an hour, relishing his love for American machinery in front of me, knowing how to drive it like every farm boy in the rural US Midwest.

Probably all gone now.

#6 Comment By Realist On February 9, 2018 @ 3:30 am

The silly machinations and pettiness of a dying nation are sad.

#7 Comment By cwk On February 9, 2018 @ 5:31 am

quite a contrast to Afrin:
“U.S. counter-attack in Syria included Air Force AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery killing 100 Russian and Assad-backed fighters in 3-hour battle beginning around midnight last night.”

#8 Comment By SteveK9 On February 9, 2018 @ 6:43 am

Of course it doesn’t serve America’s interests, it serves Israel’s and that is enough.

#9 Comment By Christian Chuba On February 9, 2018 @ 8:02 am

I question the veracity of the Pentagon’s account but in any case what happens when the Syrian army fights back against U.S. forces in one of these ‘unexpected’ encounters?

I fear that we have developed a mentality where we fully expect to be able to exert military force in countries like Syria as if we are an auxiliary police force and expect the locals to behave. The day they actually shoot down a U.S. aircraft will be so shocking that the Hawks in this country will demand that we have to respond to an act of aggression and anyone who says otherwise will be dismissed as a traitor. We are the new Roman Empire but far less honest about it. This is why we our military is grossly underfunded. It isn’t about defense. It is about domination.

#10 Comment By March Hare On February 9, 2018 @ 10:04 am

And the recent compromise funding bill now on Trump’s desk contains extra funding for this kind of stuff.

Your taxing dullards at work…

#11 Comment By jk On February 10, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

Huh, so they don’t really understand who’s fighting what and where are our weapons, training, and tax dollars our going to…this was NEVER predicted for the 100th time.

Remember that dumb, pointless, and illegal missile strike in Syria that made Trump look “Presidential”?



If this is coming from Newsweek, which tends to reflect the official neocon party line, this is interesting.

#12 Comment By Uncle Billy On February 11, 2018 @ 10:11 am

So exactly, what is our goal? Regime change? Why do we think that we have the right to overthrow foreign governments that we do not like and why do we think that the new government will be any better?

Syria is a mess, with Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Shiites, Druzes, Christians and other groups, trying to kill each other. We should stay out of this mess.

#13 Comment By Dan Green On February 11, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

Our foreign policy, bouncing off walls, with each administration, points to the obvious conclusion, as a Super Power we have no clue what hat means.

#14 Comment By Get Out. Leave. Done. On February 12, 2018 @ 6:51 am

“Syria is a mess, with Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Shiites, Druzes, Christians and other groups, trying to kill each other. We should stay out of this mess.”

That’s not all. There are now also Turks, Israelis, Saudis, Russians, Americans, and maybe Iranians fighting and bombing and killing there. Incredibly, Trump has doubled down on Obama’s already incredibly stupid decision to intervene, and now we’re in the the biggest Middle Eastern s**tstorm so far.

This latest neocon/Establishment crap in Syria disgusts me beyond description. We’ve got to strip them of their power to make policies like this.

Above all, we need to get out of there. We have no interests, no coherent plan, no real friend or ally to defend (possibly Turkey). All we’re doing is screwing things up, conniving at the deaths of innocent civilians, and adding to the inevitable refugee flows – refugees who will hit Turkey and then Europe and America.

We know how this goes. Why in God’s name are we still doing it?

#15 Comment By b. On February 22, 2018 @ 12:46 pm

One useful guideline in US politics is “By their sponsors now them.” Obama was endorsed and groomed by Tom Daschle, and supported by Joe Lieberman.

Powell was appointed by Bush.

Mattis was willing to be appointed by Trump. From this observation alone, we can conclude that we should not grant Mattis the courtesy of considering the Incompetence Dodge as an explanation for his actions. Mattis will be to North Korea, Iran and Syria as Powell was to Iraq. It should not come as a surprise.