Getting out of Syria: Wise or foolish?
President Trump has announced that he is withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. The reaction to this decision has raised cries of alarm across the political spectrum.
I claim no expertise in international affairs but will share some thoughts on this latest noisy crisis of faith (and unfaith) in our president.
Although it is easy to pick and choose quotes from America's founders and original thinkers, President Trump's actions seem to line up with the thinking of several of these men.
Thomas Jefferson described what he saw as America's role in the world thus: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none."
George Washington was even more to the point. He said that we as a nation should "act for ourselves and not for others" and spoke of our nation's very "character" as a nation as being "wholly free of foreign attachments."
That was our nation's understanding for generations, but America's thinking and its role in the world changed after WWII, for then much of the world lay largely in ruins, and it thus looked to America — to its industry, to its wealth, to its power.
That America took on that great responsibility is, in my estimation, much to its credit.
But to that must be added that social inertia is real. What one starts to do, one in time comes to see as natural and normal.
When American troops set up bases in Great Britain, for instance, with the buildup to defeat Nazi Germany, did Americans think we'd still see our military there some 70-plus years later?
What about our troops stationed in Germany? After the Nazi defeat, such was certainly needed for a time, but, again, would they have been expected to stay there for several generations?
The fact is that many parts of the world have simply come to see American troops as their defenders. And as President Trump has pointed out many of these people calling out for, and benefiting from, such "help," don't even particularly like us.
Why are we still in Afghanistan? Why are we in Syria?
Among those who do not like the president's idea of this (to me) constitutionally based retraction in overseas military involvement are some in the U.S. military itself. To this I will make just a couple of brief points.
First, in America, the military is an honored institution, and its leaders are honored people — and rightfully so. But (and this is no small thing) we as a nation look to the military's leaders for guidance in how wars are to be fought. We do not — and this has proven historically wise — look to them to determine when we fight. The commander in chief is not a man wearing a uniform — and by this I mean no disrespect — but when does a "branch officer" ever like to hear that the board of directors is closing down some of the company's branches? The military believes in the efficacy of military solutions. And as much as anyone else, military people like to see their end of the business grow. Such is simply human and is one reason why our military wisely remains under civilian control.
Also, and worth noting: When America sent its military to the Middle East, the Left in particular, but also some elsewhere on the political spectrum, said the underlying reason for this action — America's real interest — was based, simply put, upon our need for Middle Eastern oil to run our economy.
Like it or not, there was at least some truth in that. Equal "injustices" and conflicts of interest elsewhere in the world got nowhere near as much of our nation's attention. A nd certainly, that was true for other areas as different from our way of thinking as is the Middle East.
Simply put, that need for their oil no longer exists. America is and can now be as energy independent as it wishes to be.
Put all this together, and we see a long familiar pattern. Whatever "was" is seen as natural and good. Change from the status quo is resisted.
Our president is a doer. When necessary, he is a changer.
Like it or not the world is changing. Things that were in our interests once need not be, and in many cases will not be, in the future.
Syria, Turkey, Islam. Yes, even the Kurds. None of these is really central to the real issues and challenges America is now facing.
Again, I make no claim to having any special knowledge of international matters, but all the above seems to me to be so.
It is time in my judgment to break free from the status quo. The times, as has been said and sung, are a-changin'.
Image credit: Darwinek.