Thursday, October 17, 2019

Plan F

While a lot has been made of President Trump's decision to withdraw American soldiers from Syria, and the resulting offensive that Turkey has mounted against the Kurds living in the area, what's been lacking from the discussion thus far is what a better plan would have looked like.

And this has always been the problem with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the victory condition was either undefined or unrealistic, and so almost two decades after the fighting started, despite having crushed the Iraqi and Taliban forces remarkably quickly, United States soldiers are still in the area. The plan appears to be to remain until not a single person who harbors anti-American sentiment remains; or at least is willing to speak up. The actual plan is certainly much different, but from the point of view of the general public, it's simply opaque.

Whether or not citizen Donald Trump supported the wars at the time, he's certainly not a fan now. According to Newsweek:

Days after the White House announced a U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria, Trump tweeted Wednesday that "GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!" He also argued that the U.S. "has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East."
Presumably the all caps were in the original.

I don't know how much money has been appropriated for the various missions in the Middle East and Central Asia that spun out of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in September of 2001, but let's presume that the President has accurately ballparked it at about eight trillion dollars. Is continuing to spend massive amounts of money going to make anything better than it is right now?

Part of the problem that the Trump Administration has had with all of this is that they haven't laid out their priorities. So the withdrawal from Syria comes across as the President simply being random again, rather than making an executive decision that ending United States involvement in the conflict in Syria is worth the costs that are going to come from that choice. On the one hand, it's fairly clear that President Trump likely didn't weigh the pros and cons and then come to a considered decision. But on the other hand, if the current involvement in the fighting in the area is going to come to an end, it's likely going to be because someone decided that ending that involvement is worth doing. That's likely going to mean no longer worrying about how other nations see a withdrawal. I don't think that President Trump is there yet, given his sudden spiking of a purported deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

For right now, though, the President has shaken up the status quo, even while he insists that he can preserve it. Whether it counts as progress, or random flailing, is another matter. But if he continues in this vein, he may not make a lot of people happy, but he'll have chosen a priority and acted on it, rather than simply throwing money at the desire to do a number of different things all at once.

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