Let me note that I have enormous concern for the suffering people of Syria, but ask do we have a strategy to assist them.
The US launches targeted air strikes in response to the gassing of Syrians. The US stands essentially mute as the Syrian government launches offensive after offensive killing thousands. In mid January 2018, secretary Tillison stated emphatically that we are staying in Syria for the "foreseeable future" and will not make the same mistake as President Obama in withdrawing from Iraq. Then,in late March President Trump announces were pulling out and bringing our troops home in late March. It's hard to understand the difference when one dies by gas attack versus bomb or bullet and I'm sure to the dead and wounded there is no difference at all. Are we reacting to the graphic images of the results of gas attacks or the fact that such attacks violate some arcane rules of war which again distinguish between methods of killing, but not the killing itself.
It should be noted that 500,000 have been killed and millions are now refuges as important facts upon which to base a strategy for Syria. President Trump congratulates apparently himself for "mission accomplished " which raises the ultimate question of,what is the mission. Are we trying to rid Syria of Assad; are we trying to assist those resisting Assad; are we engaging in a Cold War strategy of stopping the advance of our communist enemies; or some other as yet undisclosed strategy. Irrespective of the rational, there is a failure to deploy adequate resources and neither a tactical nor strategic strategy in place.
The lack of a strategy dooms the effort to failure and wastes American lives and treasure.
I see very little benefit to the US engaging in the deployment of troops or other resources in Syria given the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lengthily wars in country's without the basic civic skills to run a democracy, that suffer the added burdens of severe religious and cultural strife and have porous borders, create an environment where military outcomes are near impossible to sustain. Our military has achieved significant victories, but once they leave the chaos returns.
The President and Congress should be forthright with the American people and explain what the desired outcome is,how it will be achieved, and most importantly how it will be sustained. Absent this information, we should all call for bring the troops and resources home because it will be obvious we don't have a strategy to assist in Syria.
Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.
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