from From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Clashing Realities in Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

400 American troops can't accomplish anything. 

Last updated March 13, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble.
And if I stay it will be double.

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Syrian Civil War

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Mick Jones’s plaintive cry of confusion, pain, and indecision is the never-ending loop set against Washington’s excruciating debate about Syria. Beginning this past December, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the United States was leaving Syria immediately, in a matter of weeks. As it turns out, U.S. forces are not leaving quite as quickly as the president envisioned. Although he assured soldiers during a visit to Iraq that there would be a complete withdrawal from Syria, the Trump administration recently announced that a residual force of 400 personnel would remain.

Trump’s decision is reminiscent of nothing so much as former President Barack Obama’s split-the-difference approach to problem-solving. It is a method that is primarily aimed at resolving domestic irritations. The envisioned force in this case is small enough to be politically palatable to the president’s supporters who want to leave Syria, but apparently big enough that supporters of staying are satisfied.

This approach’s utility when solving problems in Syria is far more questionable—in large part because there’s no agreement on which problems to solve. The foreign-policy community in Washington seems to think almost anything and everything in Syria is important enough to require the continued deployment of U.S. forces. But the result is a half-assed and potentially permanent deployment that may not be capable of accomplishing anything at all.

The full text of this article can be found here on CFR.org. 

More on:

Syrian Civil War

Military Operations

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