Thursday, December 20, 2018

Operation Inherent Dissolve

My position on intervention in the Syrian Civil War has been roughly consistent. You can click the Syria tab below if you so wish to review back to 2012, or for the executive summary you can read PLAN SALAMANDER from SEP 2015 or Rev. 1 of JUN 2017 later here.

For those in a hurry, here it is; Syria has never been in the USA orbit. As long as her civil war does not impact our national interests, what happens there is not our business as primary lead.

That changed when the Islamic State set up their Caliphate. As we did in Iraq, we partnered with the most reliable native ground force opposing them. In Syria, we rightfully decided that we would eliminate ISIS from the Euphrates valley and east to the Iraqi border. The rest of Syrian territory would be the concern of the Syrians themselves and their allies. The Syrian government was and is, without question, the only non-Kurdish force in Syria that protected religious minority Christians and Druse (being led by a minority Shia sect themselves). Our interests overlap.

Outside a small pocket, the Islamic State’s Caliphate is gone. The local forces are in a position to deal with them from here and to work out a post-civil war arrangement with the Syrian government.

That is it. Our Objectives and End States have been achieved. Full stop. Let’s go home before some underemployed good idea fairy comes up with a Sequel Plan.

We are a republic, not an empire. It is neither our responsibility or requirement to garrison the entire world to make them behave themselves. When we do that, we are rarely good at it. In the post WWII era, at best we create a chain of frozen conflicts – at worst we lose or create the conditions for future conflict. We have very few successful adventures. Off the top of my head, I can think of Grenada. DESERT STORM seems a “win” but with hindsight of follow-on events, perhaps not. We can call it a draw.

It is one thing to take chances when your direct national security is threatened, it is another “just because in the short run you can.”

Watching the responses today to President Trump’s announcement of our with drawal would be amusing if not so infuriating. The easiest to understand are the usual suspects from the “invade the world” nation building school who want nothing else than to send the American people to force people to be something they don’t want or know how to be at the point of a gun. They can’t help themselves. They mean well.

The worst are the pure political who, if anyone else but Trump were president, would be praising the withdraw. They are throwing stones just because they don’t want to be seen saying anything positive about Trump.

Those people need to pray on their actions.

Regular readers know my feelings about Trump going back to 2015. No reason to review. I have no problem calling balls and strikes – and this is a strike. A bit sloppy in execution, looks goofy on the slo-mo replay, not how I would do it - but a clear strike.

Yes, one can make an argument that ISIS is not totally dead, but that isn’t the point. Our primary responsibility was to eliminate the Caliphate’s ground possessions. We have effectively done that. A secondary goal was to reinforce the Kurds. We have and will continue to effectively do that within certain conditions.

It is not our responsibility to force an agreement with the Assad government. It is not our responsibility to police Syria. It is not our responsibility to dictate who the Assad government derives their support from. It is almost 2019. That Decision Point passed us by a half-decade ago.

What should we continue to do? Provide support as needed to the Kurds and any of our allies who decide they want to stay and sweep up ISIS remainders. We can do that from Iraq. Iraq we need to keep a presence in. There we have responsibilities that are not complete. We can help form a blocking force from Iraq and let the Syrians of all factions deal with the remains of ISIS as fits their local custom. We should have no problem striking the odd ISIS target if it pleases us, but that is about it.

What about the Russians? Russia has a long standing interest in Syria – even pre-dating the Soviet Union. Let them have their naval base. Not our business.

What about the Turks? We should make it clear that they should not be in the business of snatching land in Syria like Russia is in Ukraine. If they do, warn. If that doesn’t work – if we haven’t on the sly done it already – pull our NATO nukes out of the country. If that doesn’t work – kick them out of NATO. Between the direction they are going politically internally – they no longer seem interested in being Western anyway.

I would offer this to those who think the above is bunk; tell me why we need to stay in Syria until the crack of doom? What direct national interest does that serve? Is that worth the expenditure of blood, treasure, and creating the conditions for some damn stupid think to happen between USA and Russian or Turkish forces?
To what end? For what gain?

If Syria’s civil war is of such importance, then let those who will be most impacted by it – the Europeans – take care of what is in their back yard. They French have a good start, let others join them. If none do, then perhaps it is not the threat some here make it out to be.

We are a republic, not an empire.

What did a great man say?
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
We have done enough. It has been a good punitive expedition. Should the Islamic State raise another Caliphate there or elsewhere, and then let us talk again if it warrants action on our part in conjunction with other. Let us not now make a decision to establish yet another garrison which, at the end of this century, our great grandchildren will be asked to defend.

Update: It appears that SECDEF Mattis will be leaving in February of 2019. History will tell us if this was the last straw. Perhaps it was. I will miss Mattis.

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