President Trump has done what few thought was possible in Washington, D.C.—he’s gotten Democrats and Republicans to agree on something. Too bad it’s an inconsequential agreement that does not affect the American people like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, or maybe solving the healthcare crisis, or energy policy that will enable people to find abundant affordable energy, would. No. Instead Democrats and Republicans stand united in opposition to Trump’s decision to pull 1,000 or so troops from Syria and bring them home. Great job, folks. The American people are yawning at this latest inside the Beltway “sky is falling” charade.
Americans remember while running for president, then-candidate Trump spoke incessantly on what he termed as “endless wars” that began when American forces were originally deployed in military action with a specific mission to accomplish. These drawn-out military actions happen when the initial questions about America’s interests in the region were vague, thereby allowing the mission’s intended purposes to morph into something else over time. It is why many of the recent decisions to commit U.S. troops do not poll well with the American people. This is evidenced by how early poll numbers typically show support; however, subsequent polling shows that support wanes as the operation costs lives, casualties, and billions spent on a mission expanding way beyond its intended purposes. Congress and the public become fatigued with ongoing conflicts, and both become skeptical and demand to know what the exit strategy is. Need an example? In our post 9-11 invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan America finds itself in “the longest war in American history, outlasting the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined."
Presidents usually inherit their predecessor's decision to engage in military conflict somewhere in the world. It is always easier to get into a war than to get out of one. Exiting a war theater has political consequences. Remember when asked about when the end of the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq would happen, President George W. Bush emphatically said that the decision was for some future administration to decide. That future administration decision fell in Barack Obama’s lap. When Obama decided to remove troops from Iraq, the GOP in Congress went wild and made political hay. Democrats, however, stood mute on the decision. I will refrain from opining whether it was the right decision. My point is the Democrats didn’t join with Republicans in loudly opposing Obama’s decision in Iraq like the GOP has done standing lock-armed with Democrats blasting Trump’s decision regarding Syria.
A difficult question is always when and how to end a military operation. Unfortunately, in recent U.S. wars, there is no endgame. It goes on in perpetuity. There is no official surrender by the enemy. Even after major combat operations end, the mission morphs into something else. That something else becomes a peacekeeping role for U.S. troops providing a safe-zone inside Syria.
The United States military’s mission is to fight and win wars. Period. Putting them in harm's way as peacekeepers is wrongheaded. That is not what they are trained to be. They are warfighters, not peacekeepers. Winning hearts and minds and nation-building sounds lovely, but it is not good use of nor the responsibility of the United States military. Training foreign troops is wishful thinking. It did not stop ISIS from overrunning U.S.-trained Iraqi troops and nearly overrunning the new government.
Syria is a dumpster fire, a muddled mess with too many other countries involved like Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Many areas are vast wastelands. Thousands of years of warring factions and civil war are an ongoing occurrence. The U.S. may very well have vital interests in those areas worth putting U.S. troops in harm's way like, say, wiping out ISIS and other terrorist bases of operations. When that occurs, the mission is complete, and troops should be brought home. The vacuum created by leaving can and should be filled by another entity designed precisely for this peacekeeping role. It’s called the United Nations. The homepage on their website says, “United Nations peacekeeping operations are a vital instrument employed by the international community to advance peace and security.” Article 1 of their Charter outlines the purposes of the United Nations. It says, “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”
Peacekeeping is for the United Nations, not the U.S. military. The cost of UN peacekeeping troops is much cheaper than using U.S. soldiers, and the cost is shared by all the member nations of the UN. It is time for the United Nations to fulfill its original charter. It is why they were created. Otherwise, they’ll sit there and hold global warming summits.
I agree with the president on his decision to get U.S. troops out of Syria. I only wish he would have asked that UN peacekeeping troops fill the vacuum and given them time to deploy.
Sheriff David Clarke Jr. is former Sheriff of Milwaukee Co, Wisconsin, President of AmericasSheriff LLC, advisory Board member for We Build the Wall.us, author of the book Cop Under Fire: Beyond Hashtags of Race Crime and Politics for a Better America. To learn more visit www.americassheriff.com