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Stop Sending More U.S. Troops to Syria

Daniel Davis comments on the bad news that more U.S. troops have been sent to Syria to “counter the Russians” following the collision between American and Russian vehicles earlier this month:

It should be a non-negotiable requirement that no American combat troops will ever be sent into harm’s way unless there is a direct and imminent threat to the United States or our interests. The purpose of our military is to defend our country and keep our citizens safe, not to police ungovernable places.

Syria represents the worst possible use of our troops: deploying them into a hostile area in which no direct threats to America exist, and where their presence could inadvertently cause – rather than prevent – an attack on our country. That is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves in Syria today: no threat to national security, nothing to gain, a great deal to lose.

The collision between American and Russian forces was just the latest in a string of incidents where U.S. forces were put in danger for no good reason. It is why I have been insisting for years that the U.S. needs to get out of Syria at once. As Davis says, no good can come from this. At best, U.S. troops will continue to be put at unnecessary risk so that they can patrol territory in a country where they have never been authorized to operate and where they have no right to be. It is unacceptable to put American soldiers in such an untenable position, especially when there are no discernible American interests to protect there. The official line from the military is that these troops are there to ensure the “enduing defeat” of what they absurdly insist on calling Daesh (i.e., ISIS), but lately the only thing they have been doing is getting into clashes with Russians and the local government forces while “guarding” oil fields that belong to Syria. Fortunately, there have been no American fatalities from these clashes so far, but just imagine what a horrible waste it would be if any Americans died for the sake of this nonsense mission.

The president has talked a lot about withdrawing from foreign wars, but when push comes to shove he has done very little to make that happen. Getting out of Syria should be the easiest thing to do, because there is no justification for our forces to be there in the first place. Now that ISIS has been significantly weakened, there is no excuse for staying there any longer. Hawks have been seeking some new pretext for continuing our illegal military presence, and they will flit from one to another depending on the circumstances. Yesterday, it was checking Iranian influence, and today it is “countering” the Russians, and tomorrow it will be some other lame excuse. Keeping troops in Syria serves no legitimate or defensible purpose. Sending more there to protect the troops that are already there illegally just compounds the earlier error. Bring them all home as soon as possible, and stop trying to police a country where our forces aren’t welcome. Every day that they remain there is another day when the U.S. might blunder into a new, much more costly conflict.

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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