For both the individual and the nation, America’s Founders believed, it is necessary to regularly look around and ask why what is being done is being done, this to ensure that genuine interests are being addressed. For an individual such a review may lead to an assessment that all is well, or it may detect a need to change course, perhaps a decision to quit smoking, to recant support for the Boston Red Sox, or to refuse to hold your tongue for fear of hurting daintily effete sensibilities.
It is just as important for the national government to ask itself the “Why are we doing doing what we are doing?” question. There are numbers of the national government’s operations that merit this kind of examination, but none more so — at least in the foreign policy arena — than its ongoing military interventions in Syria and Iraq.
As has been noted here more than once, the Islamic State’s activities in those two nations have irremediably destroyed them, and so neither poses a serious threat to genuine U.S. security interests. Since 2011, moreover, the war there has taken the lives of only the few American civilians who chose to risk their own lives a war zone, and not many more U.S. military lives, the latter lost only because President Obama put U.S. forces back into an already lost and now unwinnable war. The war also has cost U.S. taxpayers a small fortune to arms and train Islamists to fight other Islamists — and then turn on the U.S. military — as well as to arm and train Kurds, who will soon be the cause of the finally crumbling of the Syrian and Iraqi states and the destabilizing of Turkey and Iran.
The truthful answer to this question, if posed by the president to his advisers, would be that what today’s U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria is doing is playing the brain-dead midwife to the birth of utter civil anarchy and sectarian and ethnic civil wars, a mess that is likely to be so broad and bloody that to claim the U.S. government’s now 13-year-old intervention there has advanced any of the abstract causes championed by Obama, the Bushes, and the Clintons — freedom, liberty, women’s rights, secularism, etc. — would be just about the blackest lie that could be told. None of these things can be achieved — or even begun — in an environment of intense chaos and accelerating violence, and that is exactly what the Bush administration ignited in 2003 and Obama has stoked since 2014.
Why should the U.S. national government continue to not only participate in, but drive this irrelevant-to-America war? Which genuine — that is, life-and-death — U.S. national security interests does the current level, or a future greater level, of U.S. military intervention in Syria and Iraq serve to secure or advance? The answer is none. Indeed, it does precisely the opposite.
The Syrian and Iraqi nation-states are decaying corpses. How many new states, or annexations to existing states, will come out of the wreckage is an open question. A new Kurdish State? A Shia Iraqi state so closely joined at the hip to Iran as to be a de facto single unit? A new version of the Ottoman Empire as Erdogan’s increasingly Islamist Turkey grabs territory in Syria and Iraq and seeks to annihilate the Kurds? A new Lebanese state that amounts to a de facto Iranian province, though not contiguous? The destruction of Jordan by the thousands of its Islamist nationals that are now serving with IS and other Muslim insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq?
What about the Sunni Arab populations in Syria and Iraq? Will they sit idly by as Shias, Kurds, Turks, and Alawites carve up the region and exclude them from power, drive them from the new states, or simply annihilate them? Not likely. Much more likely is a general series of prolonged and extremely violent activities which will see Turks fighting Kurds, the returned-to-insurgency Islamic State trying to claw back power in both disintegrating nations, the massacre of the region’s remaining Christians, and inter- and intra-tribal wars for territory and power. All of this will be worsened by an overarching anti-Shia regional war that will be waged by Sunni Islamists armed, supported, and provided manpower by Saudi Arabia, the other Sunni Gulf regimes, and other Sunni Muslim states and wealthy Sunni Muslims around the world.
And what if the foregoing is entirely wrong? What if IS is utterly defeated and gives up the fight; the Shia offer the hand of friendship, love, and reconciliation to the Sunnis and the Sunnis reciprocate; the Kurds politely agree to remain disunited and oppressed by the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi regimes; Ankara swears off its re-Ottomanization plans; and Russia comes to its senses and goes home to prepare for its coming, necessary war in Afghanistan?
The answer is that America would still be loser, as the argument would be made by NATO governments, the UN, and the Arab tyrants that because George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq gave birth to the Islamists’ war that has destroyed so much of Iraq and Syria, the enormous bill for reconstruction ought to be borne by U.S. taxpayers. The Democratic Party would go whole hog for this idea, and neoconservative Republicans would agree because it would give them a chance to trade their cooperation for a guarantee that the United States will maintain a postwar military force in Iraq with the unattainable goals of training one group or another and ensuring U.S. funding is properly spent. What the Neocons really will be seeking, of course, is a permanent military base in Iraq that can help wage the war against Iran they and the Israel Firsters have so long and so ardently desired.
Obviously, Mr. Trump, what we are doing in Iraq and Syria is both counter-productive to the genuine national security interests of the United States, and stirring a potential vortex into which another enormous tranche of U.S. taxpayer money will be poured and wasted. If this is not the answer your advisers provide to the above-noted question, get new, adult advisers immediately. Find advisers who will be honest enough to tell you that anything more you do in Iraq and Syria will amount to the feckless reinforcement of utter defeat, but, on the other hand, getting the United States out of that lethal, near-the-boil, sectarian caldron will yield substantial near- and long- term rewards, among which are:
- An end to the trillions of taxpayer dollars that have been wasted and now stand as the only reliable product of George W. Bush’s unwarranted invasion of Iraq in 2003. Mr. Trump, you and your advisers must have better uses for these funds, no? On this score, a certain wall comes immediately to mind, as does the simple kindness of halting the pillaging of American taxpayers for funds to be wasted or stolen by anti-American foreigners.
- An end to the possibility of any additional U.S. military lives being wasted in the morass known as Syria and Iraq, which is certain to evolve into a Hobbesian war of all against all, a war that, ironically, will do nothing but benefit U.S. national security if the republic’s government is smart enough to stand aside and let it rip.
- A respite for the U.S. military as a whole to rest, digest lessons learned lessons, and reequip after the serial and mostly unnecessary and lost wars that U.S. presidents have illegally waged since the elder Bush’s insane military intervention in Somalia in 1992.
- A detachment from the Middle East that will permit the soonest possible flowering of an all-out sectarian war between Sunnis and Shia, thereby allowing the broad bloodletting such a war will engender and which will consume the focus, activities, funds, and manpower of Tehran, Baghdad, and Damascus, as well as of our Islamist enemies and their Sunni nation-state backers.
- An abandonment of the so-far effective efforts of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama to empower Shia regimes at the Sunnis’ expense. Bush, Cheney, and General Petraeus allowed the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad, while Obama and Clinton have long facilitated Shia and Kurdish efforts to cleanse Arab Sunnis from Aleppo, Mosul, Damascus, Raqqa, and other historically Sunni Arab cities in Syria and Iraq. If you are not careful, Mr. Trump, you and your administration will be held responsible by Sunnis worldwide for leaving their brethren in Syria and Iraq with the choice of living in the desert or fleeing the homelands you have helped give to non-Arab, Shia apostates. This perception among Sunnis will do nothing but strengthen groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in terms of funding, manpower, popular support, and hatred for the U.S. government’s intervention in Sunni affairs. This perception is very much worth avoiding.
- A refusal to give the Democrats a chance to distract or even wreck your administration early in its tenure. You surely have noticed, Mr. Trump, that despite Obama’s wide-ranging and unnecessary overseas military interventions, and his replacement of the CIA’s tremendously effective, non-lethal rendition/interrogation program, with slaughter-by-drone operations, the so-called “American Peace Movement” has been dead silent and brooding in its malodorous sties for both of his terms. That is because, as you must know, the U.S. “peace” movement is the wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party and George Soros, and is used only when it is in their political interest to awaken it with lucre and then deploy it — and the mainstream media that is part of it and portrays it as apolitical — to wreck any administration they oppose, even one of their own, as in the case of Lyndon Johnson. This is an easily predictable and perhaps fatal domestic trap for your administration, Mr. Trump, and another one that is well worth avoiding.
Think about the foregoing, Mr. Trump. Expanded spending and military operations in Iraq and Syria will keep America on the losing end of the stick, and they may well sink your chance to put matters to rights back here at home in the republic.