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There’s a Reason They Call It the 'Forever War'

Daniel L. Davis

In recent weeks, some American troops have moved from Syria to Iraq. Airmen have moved from the United States to an airbase in the UAE, and up to two thousand more U.S. soldiers are headed to Saudi Arabia. All of this is on top of the continued presence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger, elsewhere in Africa, and combat support operations in Yemen. President Donald Trump claims he’s ending “forever wars”—but his actions keep increasing the number of troops in the Middle East.

These deployments not only fail to improve America’s national security—they weaken it. Rather than rearrange where we station troops in the region, we need to withdraw them all.

After a phone call with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month, Trump unleashed chaos when he suddenly ordered U.S. troops in Syria to immediately disengage with their Kurdish partners and reposition south. Turkey almost immediately launched a military offensive into northern Syria to form what the country called a “safe zone” to defend against what Ankara says is terrorist infiltration from northern Syria.

While I will be the first to say that the way Trump handled this situation has been atrocious, his initial announcement that he was finally going to withdraw from Syria was the right move.

Former President Barack Obama intervened in Syria without Congressional authorization, and the mission was doomed to failure from the outset. Obama never gave the Pentagon a clearly defined, achievable military objective. Such clarity is essential for combat forces because, without clearly articulated criteria, there is no way to know whether or when the troops have accomplished their mission. Thus, they stay indefinitely.

To his credit, when Trump became the commander in chief in 2017, he did give the military an achievable objective: helping the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) oust the Islamic State from its Syrian “capital” of Raqqa. That mission was fully accomplished in October of 2017. At that point, Trump should have brought our troops back home. Instead, he allowed them to stay without any mission, doubling down on Obama’s mistake. The result was as predictable as it was pointless: mission creep.

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