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Assault on America, Day 281: G. Washington supplied the impetus for pulling out of Syria

Trump and Syria
By show of hands, how many of you have ever been to Syria?

Granted I can’t see the responses, though I assume there aren’t many who answered in the affirmative. And if I asked for another demonstration as to how many ever supposed their son or daughter would sign up for military service and then be shipped to an obscure country they’d probably only read about in the Bible to fight a war our country didn’t start nor has any real national stake in, there would be a similarly tepid reaction.

Sure, some might point out that Americans didn’t have much to do with Germany, Japan and Italy during WW II either, though it should be noted Emperor Hirohito’s forces attacked Pearl Harbor without warning and Hitler declared war on us after we’d declared war on Japan. So, there was certain to be fighting after December, 1941, whether we wanted it or not. Today’s conflict(s) in the Middle East share no such immediacy -- and no congressional constitutional authorization to boot.

President Trump certainly views it this way. He so much as said so the other day while reaffirming his commitment to keep the United States out of someone else’s wars. It’s time to bring the boys (and girls) back home. Brett Samuels reported at The Hill, “Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump said he has ‘great respect’ for the prominent Republicans who are urging him to reconsider his strategy but that ‘it's time to come back home.’

“’We’ve been there for many, many, many years beyond what we were supposed to be. Not fighting. Just there. Just there. And it’s time to come back home,’ Trump said in his first public remarks since the shift was announced late Sunday...

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a ‘disaster in the making’ and promised a Senate resolution opposing it. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) described the move as a ‘betrayal.’ Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lamented the move as a ‘grave mistake,’ and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called it ‘terribly unwise.’”

“Betrayal,” Mitt? Who did we betray? Did President Trump swear to some foreign entity and then go back on his word? The American system assures a switch in executive leadership every four or eight years, so there aren’t many commitments etched in stone. Watch your “tone,” plastic man.

The neoconservative contingent best embodied by the pols mentioned above basically offered the same tired worries and admonitions they always do whenever a leader orders/threatens to take the U.S. military out of harm’s way halfway around the world, namely that we’re leaving some incontrovertible ally vulnerable and they’ll suffer a tragic defeat when no longer sheltered under the protective umbrella of Uncle Sam’s finest. It’s hard to see how Trump’s decision constitutes a “disaster in the making” as Graham insisted, since Turkey won’t be launching an attack against the American homeland and the Kurds will be handling their own security courtesy of billions in military equipment gifted to the group in the past three decades.

They (the disgruntled neocons included Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Nikki Haley) claimed we’re backing off on long-term pledges to partners in the region as well as opening the door for a reemergence of the Islamic State. I’m no Middle East expert, but aren’t all of these parties (Syria, Russia, the Kurds, Turks and Iranians) equally antagonistic to the loosely conglomerated band that tried to steal all their territory and kill them in the process?

Now (2019) is not the same situation or balance of power as before when ISIS rose from the defeated and isolated remnants of Saddam Hussein’s old Sunni regime and merged with elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist bands. The power vacuum created by the Joe Biden-ordered hasty retreat from Iraq practically constituted an engraved invitation for the radicals to flow in to fill the void left by the U.S. military. Obama called them the “junior varsity,” remember?

That JV squad was experienced and hardened from years of fighting against the regional powers and had the advantage of surprise and an enemy that wasn’t prepared for such domestic savagery. ISIS struck everywhere in a relatively short time frame and tortured and mutilated their way to declaring a caliphate.

Well, thousands (tens of thousands?) of them are now dead and ISIS exists (pretty much) only in the memories of the survivors, a good many of which are still in hiding and/or don’t have a heck of a lot of capability vis-à-vis the stronger, more systematized interests in the region. The competing groups all don’t like each other -- not exactly the perfect recipe for peace, but they’ll be more hesitant to begin a big booming war than in the past when everyone wasn’t already licking their wounds from a decade (or more) of non-stop bombing and shooting.

It certainly must be true that the Kurds are concerned about their capacity to fend off Turkish aggression. But if it’s our eternal responsibility to protect them, we’d be obligated forever. Is that what Graham, Romney and Rubio (and company) want? Isn’t that the losing political position they advanced on the way to being steamrolled by Donald Trump in 2016? If there were a groundswell of Republican support for the old Bushian foreign policy, wouldn’t Jeb Bush be sitting in the Oval Office now instead of The Donald?

Besides, Trump does have his supporters in Congress too, perhaps led by Senator Rand Paul. Paul (and father Ron) have advanced a realist non-intervention thinking based on historic precedent and practical reality. The discredited GOP establishment (think McConnell and Haley) appear to represent the old military industrial complex that relies on keeping defense budgets sky-high and deploying American soldiers and sailors to use the tools of war they’re adequately provided.

There are only so many uses for a cruise missile or cluster bomb. If you’ve got a stockpile gathering dust it’s hard to justify buying another cache. For some, it’s a lobbying thing.

If the United States were destined to be everywhere at all times wouldn’t we still be in Vietnam? The last American forces exited the Southeast Asian country in March of 1973, leading to the communist takeover shortly after. A tragedy to be sure, but how many more Americans had to die to stave off the never-give-up North Vietnamese? Was victory in sight? Do we need to keep paying for a war that we withdrew from over forty-six years ago? What about Afghanistan?

The mindset isn’t all that different concerning Syria (and surrounding countries) today. President Trump correctly says enough is enough. If not now, when? If not us, who? Again, do many of us have a personal stake in what happens in Syria? Is Haley correct in predicting a pull-out will result in increased attacks against the U.S. and its forces? Does that even make sense?

Not sure Democrats have said it yet, but they’ll probably claim Trump’s drawing the troops out of Syria to distract from his troubles at home. But this would be a reverse wag-the-dog scenario, where presidents in political hot water sometimes start wars to rally public support. Trump’s doing exactly the opposite, moving towards withdrawing from a conflict that can’t be won (at least by us) -- or arguably even affected -- by the estimated 50 to 100 special operations troops said to be impacted by the decision.

Fact: if a few dozen U.S. fighters lie between Turkey and the Kurds, they’re acting as little more than human shields for one side or the other.

The biggest challenge for the pro-intervention side is explaining how America is responsible for protecting the Kurds in perpetuity. There are worthy minorities in every corner of the globe but we can’t protect them all -- nor should we. Military aid is one thing -- it’s quite another to guarantee them safety and security. It isn’t what America was founded for.

Preeminent Founding Father George Washington warned against “excessive foreign entanglements” all those years ago. Is his advice any less salient today? There’s so little to be gained by digging in “over there.” Washington recognized it hundreds of years in advance.

Doug Bandow wrote at The American Conservative, “George Washington was no isolationist. Like his contemporaries, he expected America to prosper as a commercial republic. Rather, he advocated that the new government ‘steer clear of permanent alliances,’ have with other states ‘as little political connection as possible,’ and not ‘entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils’ of other nations’ ‘ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice.’ That is, cooperation in any form should be based on circumstance and focused on advancing the interests of the American people. He wouldn’t necessarily oppose defending Saudi Arabia, but he would expect the determination to be made by Washington, D.C. and not Riyadh.

“Some Americans have lost interest in the Founders, who seem exiled by the mists of time. Yet George Washington and his contemporaries confronted the eternal challenges of power and principle. In his Farewell Address, Washington melded theory with practice and offered lessons which U.S. presidents and other policymakers should learn for today, including to ‘observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.’”

Contrary to the contemporary liberal politically correct impression of the Founders, they weren’t just backwards racist rubes who beat their slaves all day and got lucky when France intervened and defeated King George III’s forces in the great war for American independence. They were a unique blend of soldiers, statesmen and intellectuals who understood war and its uses -- and limitations. Washington’s example should be followed and honored.

It's little known or appreciated today, but Washington’s attitudes were deeply influenced by his service as commander of the Virginia regiment during what is known today at the French and Indian War. (Note: Colonial Williamsburg offers a number of excellent programs dealing with the topic.) His views on foreign policy and warfare were prescient. Trump appears to share similar opinions, though they’re expressed in a very different style.

President Trump will continue to draw criticism for his decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, but he’s doing the right thing. There simply isn’t a way to win by keeping the military involved in situations where they’re little more than human shields in the center of an ancient power struggle not of our making.

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We need to recognize the real enemy

It's time for us to bring home our forces, regroup, and strategize for any future action against the real enemy, China. China has taken control of large portions of the China Sea, including islands owned by other countries. They have also been building their military forces to expand their warfare capabilities with the latest weapons and technology. Some of those capabilities are well ahead of America's. They have also been positioning themselves economically to take over the world's currency. The president is doing what he can about that latter issue, but it'll take Congress to do something more about the military issue. It'll also require military leaders to rethink strategy so that we aren't, as usual, fighting the last war, but are focused on what we need to do in the next one.