If you didn’t know any better, you might have thought that President Donald Trump’s strong desire to pull the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria was the beginning of a full-scale regional Armageddon of unprecedented proportions. The reaction from the foreign policy establishment on the op-ed pages has been outright panic and disbelief. Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, called the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal “a strategic victory” for Washington’s enemies in the region.
What most of these analysts ignore is that U.S. military policy in Syria was never about anything other than hammering the Islamic State into the sand. Those who worry about a strategic vacuum being created by an American redeployment not only overestimate what a few thousand U.S. troops could realistically accomplish in a multifaceted, burning ember of a civil war, but also expose their strategic blind spot of the bigger picture.
Critics who oppose a departure of U.S. troops from Syria are relying on several arguments, all of which are specious and underpinned by poor assumptions and false premises.