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Kinzer writes: "According to the logic behind American strategy in the Middle East - and the rest of the world - one of our principal goals should be to prevent peace or prosperity from breaking out in countries whose governments are unfriendly to us. That outcome in Syria would have results we consider intolerable."

American troops look toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost in northern Syria in February. (photo: Susannah George/AP)
American troops look toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost in northern Syria in February. (photo: Susannah George/AP)

If Trump Deepens Our Involvement in Syria, US Troops May Be There for Decades

By Stephen Kinzer, The Boston Globe

13 April 18


uring seven devastating years, war in Syria has killed at least 150,000 people, turned more than ten million into refugees, and reduced once-thriving towns and cities to rubble. Finally it is winding down. Syria now has a chance to begin rebuilding. The country can be reunited, its economy can start to function again, and a measure of political stability can return. None of that, however, is likely to happen. American military and security planers are determined to prevent it as long as President Bashar al-Assad is in power. The specter of a peaceful and prosperous Syria under Assad’s leadership terrifies them. They believe that until he is gone, it is in America’s interest to keep Syria divided, unstable and impoverished.

Much of Syria’s water, much of its oil, and much of its best agricultural land lie in regions controlled by US-backed rebel factions. This gives the Americans a magnificent opportunity. We could encourage our Kurdish allies and other rebel groups to negotiate a peace accord with Assad, who seems likely to remain in power for years to come. That would lay the foundation for a stable Syria—which is why we are unlikely do it.

According to the logic behind American strategy in the Middle East — and the rest of the world — one of our principal goals should be to prevent peace or prosperity from breaking out in countries whose governments are unfriendly to us. That outcome in Syria would have results we consider intolerable. First, it would signal final victory for the Assad government, which we deluded ourselves into thinking we could crush. Second, it would allow Russia, which has been Assad’s ally, to maintain its influence in Syria. Most frighteningly, it might allow stability to spread to nearby countries. Today, for the first time in modern history, the governments of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are on good terms. A partnership among them could lay the foundation for a new Middle East. That new Middle East, however, would not be submissive to the United States-Israel-Saudi Arabia coalition. For that reason, we are determined to prevent it from emerging. Better to keep these countries in misery and conflict, some reason, than to allow them to thrive while they defy the United States.

War in Syria began as civil conflict — a dispute among Syrians. Soon after it turned violent, outside powers rushed in. Iran and Russia sided with the government. The United States supported rebel groups, including several that were part of the Al Qaeda and Nusra Front terror networks. Turkey also sent weapons to terror groups, but then changed course, became friendlier to the Assad government, and turned its fire on the Kurds. Syria has become an arena for big-power conflict. It can no longer shape its own fate.

The United States is hardly the only outside power that is more interested in scoring points against perceived rivals in Syria than in stopping bloodshed. But our role is now crucial because our sway over mostly-defeated rebel groups allows us to push them toward either war or peace. From Washington’s perspective, peace in Syria is the horror scenario. Peace would mean what the United States sees as a “win” for our enemies: Russia, Iran, and the Assad government. We are determined to prevent that, regardless of the human cost.

Governments often make strategic calculations that place their own geopolitical interest ahead of humanitarian concerns. In this case, though, our determination that Syria not be stabilized under its present government is shortsighted. Stability in the Middle East is in our long-term interest. If we promote policies that allow strong middle classes to grow in Syria and nearby countries, those countries will be less warlike, and may even evolve toward democracy. The strategy we are pursuing will have the opposite effect. Poverty — not ideology or religion — is the main force driving young men into the ranks of terror groups. By keeping Syria poor, we provide those groups with an endless supply of recruits.

In Washington, this is considered an acceptable price to pay in order to prevent our rivals from racking up a “win.” In fact, though, our national security does not depend on how much influence various countries have in the Middle East. We wildly exaggerate that region’s importance. Our security will not be decisively affected by whether or not a gas pipeline is built from Iran to Syria’s Mediterranean coast, or how the political jousting between Iran and Saudi Arabia unfolds. These are Middle East issues and should be resolved by the people and governments of that region.

President Trump has declared repeatedly in recent weeks that he wants to pull American troops out of Syria. “We’re going to be coming out of there real soon,” he told a rally in Ohio. Later he trenchantly assessed the balance of our 21st-century misadventure in the Middle East. “Seven trillion dollars over a 17-year period,” he said. “We have nothing — nothing except death and destruction. It’s a horrible thing.”

Trump’s instinct is based on common sense. That same instinct led him to declare that he would pull troops out of Afghanistan — until his generals persuaded him to send more instead. The security imperatives that keep us in Syria are fantasies of fevered military minds. We should stop trying to turn Syria into an American protectorate, and look for ways to withdraw our troops rather than justifications to keep them there forever. your social media marketing partner


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+3 # Benign Observer 2018-04-13 10:37
I'm confused as to why so many articles are accusing Trump of getting us in deeper in Syria.

Trump is the one trying to get us out. This is the third time he's suggested an imminent exit from Syria or Afghanistan but whenever he does the press and Pentagon hyperventilate and tell us why it's impossible/stupid/irresponsible.

Sometimes they accuse him of broadcasting our intent (oh horrors!), like that matters when our nukes are lining up against each other and Russians are building bomb shelters. Are we? Oh no. We'll just be the collateral damage when these jackasses are done waving their dicks around. Americans haven't a clue what's in the works .. but everybody else does. Europe knows what's coming. Many probably think we deserve it. How far we've come from 911, when we had the world's sympathy.

Who has the REAL power here? Who is calling the shots? Monsters like Clapper and Watts, Ignatius, Kristol and Albright -- while we gawk at Playboy models and foam at the funhouse mirrors constructed by the colluding press.

Noam Chomsky says our gullibility on Russiagate makes us a laughingstock around the world. Alternative media is disappearing in the name of freedom, our consent is being manufactured so we can't complain when the bombs start dropping.

The Pentagon is insane. They always have been. They yearn to use their nuclear toys and they hate any challenge to American empire.

Greed and war are destroying this country. Wtfu.
0 # lfeuille 2018-04-13 19:00
You confuse what he says with what he does. They are not the same. In fact, the former bears no relationship at all to the latter. He fires up Twitter or opens his mouth and random thoughts flow out. They have absolutely no meaning.
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-15 13:03
This progressive totally agrees. I have been absolutely astounded by the war mongering on the so-called "left".

It's an insane world when the voices of common sense, reason and restraint come from Tucker Carlson (!) and a General nick-named "Mad Dog."

Holy mother of god.
+4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-04-13 10:55
Kinzer makes a good point. Trump is really ignorant about US wars and the Deep State plans to militarily dominate the entire planet, outer space, and the oceans. But "Trump’s instinct is based on common sense." And common sense says that permanent wars and killing lots of people is the wrong thing to do.

Too bad there are so few people inside the government, war hawk think tanks. or war cheerleading major media who have the common sense to see that Trump's common sense needs to be rewarded and promoted.

America is a war state. It's allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia and also war states. There identity as nations are bound up with war and killing.

By nature Trump does not seem to be a part of this, but he has filled his administration with people who are killers by nature. Trump is not in a sustainable position. The killers are growing more and more powerful in his administration. They will make sure that he does not stand in their way toward more and bigger wars in the middle east. Iran is the final target.

I think US troops occupying Syria for decades or forever is precisely the goal of the Deep State war party. That's what they most want. They do not care how much it costs. They make a profit from endless war.

Kinzer is exactly right: "The specter of a peaceful and prosperous Syria under Assad’s leadership terrifies them. " A peaceful and prosperous anywhere terrifies them.
+6 # heraldmage 2018-04-13 18:14
If we take a look at the USA post WW2 attempts at military occupation Iran, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan & Iraq aside from purchasing a collaborators the US has never been able to win the hearts and minds of the people while handing out food at the point of a gun. The Iranians revolted kicking the US & its puppet monarch out. The Vietnamese never surrendered their sovereignty fighting until the US left. Korea divided by the post WW2 US occupation forces without their consent fought for reunification against the US occupation to a draw resulting in US / DPRK armistice & a 60+ yr US military occupation. The US military is still engaged in Afghanistan & Iraq.
The US track record of peace & prosperity in nations where US will was imposed by the US military is dismal at best.
The reason for this lack of success isn't due to lack of US military might or its soldiers, it's the attitude that US corporate profit supersedes national sovereignty & governments who resist are subject to regime change. Unfortunately the US plans for Syria include regime change of another elected government. The vast majority of Syrians support the Assad government, they will & have fought to the death to defeat foreign funded mercenaries & defend their nation.
Its time we stop war for USA corporate profits. Let the Syrians decide what type of government they want & who should run. Maybe if we stop being a bully nations would willing work with us toward a common goal.
+8 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-04-13 11:06
"Our security will not be decisively affected by whether or not a gas pipeline is built from Iran to Syria’s Mediterranean coast".
It's not about security. It IS about money. It is always money. Cut the Russian out of selling gas to Europe so "our" oil companies can.
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-15 13:10
Which is something I find rather bizarre: Why would Europe import gas across 3,000 -4,000 miles of ocean when they could get it faster and cheaper from Russia? I mean, look at the map!
+7 # dotlady 2018-04-13 15:31
The US never thought of a pipeline it could do without controlling, even if it has to lay waste the countries where it runs, or is even proposed.Second ly, it would be a few years of peace before a middle-class market developed that we could monopolize, whereas we're doing great by selling arms now. God forbid other countries could move toward a democratic society that might not back down to our demands, even though they could more rationally become partners in working for a better life for people. As if anyone cared about that.

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