Since President Trump announced he would be pulling out U.S. troops from Syria, there has been an exceptional amount of caterwauling from the chattering classes and various politicians. Some of it has gotten to the point of ridiculousness – passive-aggressive call for a coup (by Erick Erickson), talk of impeachment – and most of it is over the top, as if pulling 2000 troops out of a mid-East country with little, if any, strategic value to the U.S. is somehow a disaster.
Much of this comes from the usual suspects, the neocon interventionists, who never see a conflict on the world stage they are not willing to send other Americans to fight (I’m looking at you, Bill Kristol). Some of it comes from people who, without any guiding principle, want to be on the opposite side of the president, irrespective of the issue (see Howard Dean, whose 2004 presidential campaign was rooted in opposing the Iraq War, now insisting Trump is making a mistake by discontinuing our intervention in Syria). And some of it descends into the area of being bat-shinola craziness, like Rachel Maddow’s insistence that the motivation for the president’s withdrawal of troops is being in the pocket of Vladmir Putin (pass the tinfoil, please).
For those of you that oppose this withdrawal, all hope is not lost. There are several things you can do.
First of all, you can call on congress to officially declare war (and if you are in congress, you can call on your colleagues to put such a motion to the floor and put your ‘yea’ vote on the record). If keeping 2000 American troops in Syria is that important, you should have no issue calling on congress to do its constitutionally prescribed duty of taking an up or down vote on declaring war. If you are actually in congress and are now complaining about the withdrawal (see Rubio, Marco; Graham, Lindsey), instead of advocating for war while putting all the responsibility on the president to make the decision, take control of the situation yourself in a manner that is constitutionally authorized and carries virtually no legal risk to you. For both groups mentioned here (including the overlap), your failure to call for a congressional declaration of war speaks volumes – and undermines your case, badly.
You can also show how important you believe it is to keep our troops in the Middle East by putting some skin in the game, to use terminology increasingly popularized thanks to Nicholas Taleb. If you are of military eligible age, stop complaining and head to the recruiters office. Tell them you want to sign up today, leave for boot camp as soon as possible, and request to be sent to one of the many combat zones in which the U.S. has troops, for whatever reason. It’s easy, really easy, to say we need to intervene here and there for whatever reason. It’s much harder to say it when you are the one there, when you are the one with bullets flying past your head never knowing if the next one might hit it, watching your fellow soldiers losing lives and limbs.
Now, if you are not of military age, but say, have kids that are, you need to be imploring them to sign up for military duty, stat. For example, Mona Charen, who pens a pro-intervention column at National Review today (I will not link it here) has, if I am not mistaken, two sons of military age. Are they putting on the uniform? Are they going to go into harm’s way? I seriously doubt it. Now don’t get me wrong – no decent mother wants to send her kids into a war zone, ever. But if it is this important, as she seems to believe, shouldn’t she and others like her have some skin in the game? Shouldn’t she and others like her bear some personal risk for the policies they advocate? Of course, they won’t, and they never do. The lives that are lost or broken by their preferred policies are nothing more than abstractions to them. Some kid from Alabama had limbs blown off and third degree burns across half his body? Well, it was important for American honor, or something. Yeah, she and others like her will wave flags and say they support the troops. But when the rubber meets the road, they will do everything they can to make sure they don’t bear any personal cost for the policies they advocate. That’s for other people to do. Sunshine soldiers and summer patriots, indeed.
So, if you’re not willing to advocate for a clear, constitutional declaration of war, if you’re not willing to put some skin in the game and bear some personal cost, why should I believe your position is principled? Your actions belie your virtue signaling words.
For those few of you that do have real skin in the game and think we need to keep our troops in Syria and elsewhere, I’ll at least cut you some slack – you are willing to put your money where your mouth is. But I still disagree with your position.
As inferred above, putting troops in Syria has absolutely no constitutionally prescribed authorization. Not one single vote in congress has been cast to authorize out intervention there. Furthermore, it’s laughable that so many people who shriek that Trump is Hitler or some authoritarian are shrieking even louder now that he is removing U.S. troops from a war zone, rather than deploying them to one. Their silence when President Obama did the opposite is quite telling.
Constitutional authorization notwithstanding … have you pro-intervention guys looked at the results you have gotten over the years – particularly since 9/11? Afghanistan is an absolute quagmire that, were it a person, it would be old enough to graduate high school. The Iraqis didn’t greet us as liberators as we were told they would, and the alleged weapons of mass destruction were few and far between. Meanwhile, the country descended into years of sectarian violence that has cooled some but has not ended. While I shed no tears for Saddam Hussein and admit to enjoying his ending, Iraq is still an absolute mess, one that was primarily created by the U.S. Libya? It’s true that they had their own tyrant, but our intervention there accomplished nothing more than making the place an unstable hellhole, which also now has open-air slave markets where they did not exist before. Meanwhile, in our own country, we’ve seen thousands of needless deaths, many thousands more broken lives because of it, and trillions of dollars added to our own debt which in and of itself is a significant threat. All for a region that was a mess before we plunged in head first, and is arguably a worse mess now. Why the hell should I or anybody else believe that this time will be different?
There is simply no argument that our interventions in the Middle East have been anything other than an abject disaster. To argue otherwise is delusional. There is no less hatred for the U.S. emanating from that part of the world than there was on 9/11, and that hatred will exist whether we are there to “help” or not.
What is just staggering to me – although it shouldn’t be at this point – is the complete unwillingness of the interention-istas to engage in even a little self-reflection and a little honest evaluation of their results of their preferred policies. To the degree they acknowledge any less than ideal outcomes of their policies, the intervention-istas sound like today’s socialists when confronted with the history of their sorry movement: it’s not the fault of the policy, and next time it will work if only the right people are allowed to implement it. Trust us. Um, no. You’ve been too wrong for too long, and only a fool would trust you at this point.
For those of you who agree with bringing the troops home from this and other undeclared wars, don’t feel bad for those on the other side of this argument. When you see them mocked, when you see them in agony that they are not going to be able to – consequence free – send others off to fight their pet wars, when you hear their drama-queen shrieks about what a disaster this or that troop withdrawal is … well, this is a time it’s ok for you to indulge in a little bit of schadenfreude. If anything, they are getting off light – very light – in terms of consequences for their disastrous policies. As for me, I’m going to go scour YouTube for some of those military homecoming videos where soldiers surprise their kids who didn’t expect them home so early. Those things get me every time.