Syria – Back To Zero

U.S. Marines fire an M120 Mortar round at a known ISIS target. Photo by @CJTFOIR Twitter.

ISIS has been defeated as a military threat. This is a significant victory for American forces and their allies in the Middle East. It is simultaneously a considerable failure.

The focus has shifted to ISIS only because of the amazing incompetency of President Obama. Despite being warned of the possible dangers arising from a power vacuum, he fully backed – as did much of the world press – the “Arab Spring”, which was, in theory, an effort at a renaissance from the Middle East. College-educated people were rebelling against oppressive dictatorial governments, and the idea was that the areas would discard Islamism.

Instead, as predicted by many, the large numbers of Islamists overwhelmed the small numbers of freedom seekers in these countries. They took their opportunities to revert their countries, and in the case of ISIS they attempted to form a new one, a Caliphate from which to overwhelm the world.

President Obama dismissed ISIS as “the JV team”… and he was right. They lacked personnel, equipment, and expertise compared to most other countries, especially America. We had the capability to utterly destroy them, quickly.

We did not do so, though. They gathered with civilians – both supporters and prisoners – and, mindful of the negative world response to civilian deaths, we restricted the areas in which the military was allowed to strike. Even an NBA All-Star team will lose to a JV squad if one hand is tied behind their back and they are forced to wear cowboy boots.

Meanwhile ISIS regularly committed atrocities. The answer, as unpleasant as it might be, was to embrace the notion of war and to trust our soldiers.

By pulling the reporters who were stationed with the troops, by no longer reporting on civilian casualties, and by believing that the troops would do their best to minimize the deaths of innocents, the battles against ISIS were regularly won. This was not due to any brilliant strategy. This was done by simply allowing the Generals to do their job.

Obama would not agree to that. Trump did. Trump absolutely gets credit for it.

But… remember what I said about the focus shifting?

The goal in Syria was to depose Assad and allow the freedom-loving people to control their country. In Syria, at least, there was a large contingent of those people. They wanted freedom in part because they’d encountered its results on a daily basis. Assad had been an ally to the United States during the W. era and had allowed the CIA to use his country for rendition of Al Qaeda members.

Siding with the attempted overthrow of Assad was, arguably, a terrible foreign policy mistake on the side of the Obama government. It pushed Assad firmly into the arms of Russia, which, as the keystone of the Soviet Union, had been an ally of his father. When he needed further help, he received it by allying with Iran, which is seeking to be the dominant power in the Middle East.

When Trump entered the Presidency, he was handed a mess in Syria. ISIS was in partial control of areas there and in neighboring countries. Assad had weathered the worst of the attacks against him and was using the refugee crisis and Iraqi/Russian support to attack the pro-Western insurgents. America’s support of the insurgents was limited because of how many of them had defected from the pro-Western forces to ISIS forces.

It was a herculean task to defeat ISIS while keeping the pro-Western forces strong enough to defeat Assad. Trump took the easiest alternative available: he punted.

By concentrating on ISIS while effectively abandoning the efforts against Assad, we are able to declare victory – but Assad is still in power. Now, in fact, as he works toward re-establishing control over his entire country, he has been taught an important lesson about American alliances, which is to say that they’re worthless. The pro-Western forces, having been promised support which instead shifted exclusively to fighting ISIS, have been taught that Americans are strong but unfocused and undependable.

Assad has also learned the value of being far more dictatorial than he had previously been. During the Bush era, Islamists were regularly imprisoned and there were complaints about free speech rights. During the Syrian civil war, there have been multiple allegations of his forces using chemical weapons and wiping out civilian populations which supported his opponents. By abandoning our efforts against him after he crossed those lines, we have demonstrated that our positions against such tactics might not be as firm as we have claimed.

Other countries, watching, have also learned these lessons.

Trump was handed a situation in Syria which was steadily getting worse. But there is no great victory; in the big picture, we are simply returning to what is, effectively, a position far behind our starting point. We effectively abandoned one of our stated goals in an effort to get a solid, comparatively quick win against a monstrous enemy. In abandoning that goal – as thick-headed as it might have been to declare it in the first place – we have worsened the international reputation of the United States and strengthened Anti-American and repressive regimes throughout the world.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.