Bring American troops home
By Grace Vuoto
What is military victory? We no longer know the answer to this basic question. President Donald Trump stated this week that it is time to pull the remaining 2,000 American troops out of Syria. His national security team convinced him it is too soon to withdraw. Now, Trump has agreed to keep the troops in the region indefinitely.
Trump’s instincts are right: It is time to go. ISIS, the brutal Islamist terrorist organization that ran roughshod over much of Iraq and Syria following President Barack Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, has now been smashed. Iraqi or Syrian forces, respectively, can conduct the remaining mop-up operations along the Iraq-Syria border and in other small pockets of resistance.
America’s military top brass invariably finds a reason to prolong military activity. They argue that if we withdraw from Syria, we are ceding control of the region to the Russians, the Iranians and the Turks. Newsflash: This has already happened. No amount of staying there any longer with a mere 2,000 troops will change the fundamental dynamics on the ground. That ship sailed during the Obama presidency; unless we invest many more troops, dollars and commit to years of further warfare, we cannot alter this reality. History will judge Obama harshly for the calamity he allowed to take place and the degradation of the American position in the Middle East. It is not Trump’s fault and he cannot reverse it.
Another argument being made is that in order to prevent ISIS or other terrorist organizations from emerging, we have to remain there and also invest millions of dollars to “stabilize” Syria. Trump rightly froze plans to spend $200 million to shore up the country’s infrastructure. It is not the role of our armed forces to lay down cables for water and electricity. The Syrians should not be treated like children who need to be spoon-fed. It’s their country; let them stabilize it.
Do you think George Washington would entertain these arguments? Can you imagine that conversation? “You want us to stay in some far distant land to resolve a CIVIL war and to build roads and bridges?” He would thunder at the very suggestion. It would surely sound preposterous to him and to generations of military leaders that followed. Why is it routine for America’s current top military brass to provide such shoddy counsel?
It is because the American military is no longer a group of soldiers tasked with defending the nation through arms: it has become a bureaucracy with guns, rather than a fighting force. Hence, for the bureaucrats, otherwise known as American generals, it is always too soon to withdraw and more money is required. This bureaucracy simply replicates the one at home: it only grows, never shrinks.
The military bureaucrats can be intimidating for they raise the specter of a threat to national security, to American vital interests, if their advice is not followed. Trump should recognize this for what it is: bullying. For many, their bloated salary and sense of importance is driving the conversation rather than a regard for America’s true vital interests.
War, quite simply, as defined by the Webster dictionary, is “a state of armed conflict between nations or states.” It follows that victory is achieved when the preponderance of force favors one side. Overwhelming force has now dwarfed ISIS. American troops are no longer needed. The mission has been completed.
In an attempt to find a way out while also placating his advisers, Trump asked Saudi Arabia to invest $4 billion in Syria. After all, they would be resolving a problem in their backyard, he maintains. But even this—an American president cajoling other nations into the rebuilding process—is a task he should shun. It is not our place to tell the Saudis what they should do. This cedes the argument that foreigners are required to help other nations. This only perpetuates international dependence, or meddling, and thus guarantees resentments and further conflict.
Trump should trust his instincts and common sense. The greatest military generals in world history, like Alexander the Great, for example, knew not only when to advance, but more importantly, when to stop.
The puny bureaucrats of our time are incapable of deciphering neither victory nor defeat; all they know is perpetual war.
-Grace Vuoto is the Communications Director of the Boston Broadside and a columnist.