Ron Paul vs The Mainstream Media: Should US Forces Get Out of Syria?
The following Op-Ed was published in USA Today….
By Ron Paul
I was disappointed to hear President Trump so quickly reverse his position on removing U.S. troops from Syria. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong,” he told an Ohio audience just a week ago. That sounded refreshingly like candidate Trump’s promises of no more nation-building. Then he flipped his position and announced we’d stay.
I do think Trump understands that our interventionist foreign policy is a massive waste of money and lives. He said in February, “As of a couple of months ago, we have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. … What a mistake.”
How right he is. A big mistake. The problem is the neoconservatives who dominate Washington foreign policy continue to push a whopper of a canard: They insist that extremist groups rise to fill a vacuum in the Middle East whenever U.S. troops leave. However, the truth is these radical groups arise precisely because of our entering the region, not leaving it!
There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. There was no Islamic State in Syria before President Obama’s covert support for regime change after the 2011 unrest. The massive pipeline of U.S. weapons to “moderate” rebels in Syria ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda affiliated groups and ISIS. Does anyone think that harebrained scheme makes anyone safer?
The facts are clear: ISIS is on the ropes. It controls no significant town or population center. It is holed up in the desert and is being eliminated by the Syrian government and its allies. Without foreign support, ISIS will never regain significant positions in Syria.
So why are we staying?
The U.S. Central Command commander, Gen. Joseph Votel, said we must stay in Syria to “stabilize” parts of the country occupied by U.S. forces and “consolidate … our gains.” But what gives us the right to “stabilize” and “consolidate” foreign territory we have no legal right to occupy? To keep us safe, Trump needs to tell our troops to “just come home.”
Former congressman Ron Paul is chairman of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Below is the rebuttal to Ron Paul’s statement drafted by USA Today’s editorial board under the heading, “Keep US Troops in Syria for Now”, which attempts to make a series of pretty incoherent arguments in order to justify the US presence in Syria – like comparing the US pulling out of Syria to the Soviets pulling out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. There are a number of other factually incorrect statements which 21WIRE readers should be able to spot (please leave your comments below):
“ISIS is on the ropes. Donald Trump shouldn’t rush to bring home American forces: Our view”
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is on the brink of defeat. And the war against the ISIS caliphate is being won with a relatively small investment of U.S. troops (about 5,000 in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria) and a comparatively low number of U.S. combat deaths (14 so far).
The success of the anti-ISIS strategy, launched by President Obama and accelerated by President Trump, reflects hard, bloody lessons from 17 years of battling resilient insurgencies in the Middle East and South Asia.
In both Iraq and Syria, local allies have done most of the fighting and dying in the battle against ISIS, with advisory assistance and all important air support from U.S.-led forces. In Iraq, the local allies included Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga. In Syria, they included Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters, a force of 60,000.
So with ISIS on the ropes, is it time to “bring our troops back home,” as Trump promised this week?
Such a step would be premature, as Trump’s military and diplomatic advisers are cautioning him. A crucial lesson of America’s involvement in the region is that a conflict isn’t over the moment the shooting subsides:
►In Afghanistan, after U.S.-supported mujahedin fighters drove the Soviets out in 1989, American interest evaporated and the resulting vacuum helped lead to civil war, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and thousands slaughtered in New York and Washington on 9/11.
►In Iraq, after the United States pulled out in 2011, the barbarous Islamic State filled the void, and more than 1,000 people were killed in attacks ISIS launched or inspired in America, Europe and elsewhere.
►In Syria, stabilization and security are needed to prevent ISIS from re-emerging. Water and electricity have to be turned on, housing rebuilt, and families returned to neighborhoods. Before that, mountains of rubble must be cleared, and improvised explosive devices deactivated. Coalition forces found bombs rigged in nearly every structure in Raqqa, the liberated former capital of the Islamic State.
The situation in war-fractured Syria remains hideously complex. If it matters to the Trump administration — and it should — U.S. troops and negotiators also represent a buffer against the dominating influence of Moscow, a murderous Russian-backed regime in Damascus, the growing regional threat of Iran, and the potential for major violence between Turkey and Syrian Kurds.
Trump is correct that neighboring Arab nations should help defray the costs of stabilization. But he’d be wrong to telegraph U.S. intentions by putting an artificial timetable on withdrawal, something he has roundly criticized his predecessor for doing in other circumstances.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that Trump would ultimately rely on commanders and troops “on the ground” to determine when it’s appropriate to leave Syria. That, rather than a hasty pullout, is the best way to preserve the hard-won gains against ISIS.