Osama bin Laden predicted it and his prophecy appears to be coming true. In his book, "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," Lawrence Wright quotes bin Laden as saying: "Look at Vietnam, look at Lebanon. Whenever soldiers start coming home in body bags, Americans panic and retreat. Such a country needs only to be confronted with two or three sharp blows, then it will flee in panic, as it always has."
With President Trump's announcement before Christmas that the United States would leave Syria and withdraw substantial numbers of its forces from Afghanistan, which have been fighting the Taliban for 17 years, that prophecy is about to be fulfilled.
It was President George W. Bush who, after sending more troops to Afghanistan, said, "We are taking the fight to the enemy abroad so we do not have to face them here at home." The question then becomes for President Trump -- since he no longer wants to fight them there, will we at some point have to fight them again on U.S. soil, or to be more precise, will more terrorist attacks occur in New York, Washington and other major American cities as our enemies regroup?
The terrorist organizations never give up and are sure to see America's retreat as weakness and surrender, enlisting more recruits for their cause. In large part this is due to their religious motivation and belief that Allah has directed them to kill "infidels" and even fellow Muslims who don't practice their radical brand of Islam.
As Caroline Glick writes in The Jerusalem Post, "Despite their relatively small numbers, the U.S. forces in Syria have had a massive strategic impact on the power balance in the country. Deployed along the border triangle joining Syria, Iraq and Jordan, the U.S. forces in Syria have blocked Iran taking over the Iraqi-Syria border and so forging a land bridge linking Iran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
"U.S. forces at the border have also prevented Iranian-controlled forces from attacking Jordan." America's military brass and Defense Secretary James Mattis are opposed to unilateral withdrawal from Syria. In a resignation letter, Mattis strongly suggested he is leaving because of the president's decision. So is Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
At a minimum in Syria, we should provide a way out for the persecuted Christians and do something to help the Kurds, who will again be primary targets of Bashir al-Assad's regime, Islamic fanatics and Turkish troops.
Then there is the question about our allies, who have contributed troops and money for the war effort in Syria and especially in Afghanistan. They apparently weren't consulted by the president in advance of his announcement and are entitled to feel disrespected.
On the other hand -- and there is always another hand -- do we stay forever? Is ours the only military force that can successfully deter terrorists? What is the end game as Syria and Afghanistan appear to be endless conflicts that military force has been unable to resolve?
Stay, or leave? Either choice is a bad choice, but unilateral withdrawal is the worst choice. Watching Russia and Iran applaud ought to be evidence enough that the president's choice is the worst choice he could have made.
That other applause you hear is coming from Osama bin Laden.