The US in Syria: Boots on the Ground or Get the Heck Out?

C. Davis
By C. Davis May 19, 2017 08:48

The US in Syria: Boots on the Ground or Get the Heck Out?

Remember the high hopes for the “Arab Spring” in 2011? It’s almost forgotten now, apart from one grim legacy – the Syrian Civil War. This has now been raging for more than six years; more than 100,000 people are dead, nearly four million have become refugees, another ten million are displaced inside the country and there’s no end in sight. So, what – if anything – should the United States do about it?

Some people say that the Middle East and its problems have nothing to do with the USA. This is simply not true. The Middle East holds a huge chunk of the world’s oil reserves, and that means it has a huge influence on global politics.

The USA has allies in the Middle East – Israel, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. These allies have their own interests that aren’t the same as America’s, but supporting them gives the USA a legal basis to have bases in the region and a degree of influence. The question is what the USA should do about other countries – like Syria. Additionally, our nation has to also take into consideration that there are 3 major threats facing the U.S. by the end of 2017.

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Syria’s regime, led by Bashar al-Assad, isn’t a threat to the USA. In fact, it isn’t really a threat to anybody outside its own borders. Syria would quite like to get the Golan Heights back, but it isn’t strong enough to take on Israel on its own. It has no serious quarrels with its Arab neighbors, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. It doesn’t get on very well with Turkey’s increasingly extreme islamist government, but then who does?

Assad is a Ba’athist, like Saddam Hussein was. Ba’athism is a form of Arab Socialism; as ideologies go it’s not great, but it’s a lot better than radical Islamism. In fact, Arab Socialist regimes – Gadaffi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, the Assads in Syria – have been almost unique in the region in that they’ve been secular, instead of based on religious law. In most Arab countries, the majority religious group persecutes everyone else. Saddam’s Iraq was a pretty bad place to be if you were a political opponent of the regime, but if you were a Christian it was one of the few places in the Middle East where you weren’t a second-class citizen. The same goes for Syria; Assad, and his father before him, have been tolerant of religious minorities. That’s probably not a surprise because the Assad family are Alawites – a variety of Shia Islam that’s picked up elements of other religions, including Christianity.

The Syrian regime isn’t even anti-western. In 1990, President Hazed al-Assad contributed troops to the war against his fellow Ba’athist Saddam. For a decade after 9/11 – until the west started backing the rebels in the Syrian civil war – Syria regularly passed information about al Qaida to western intelligence agencies. Assad hates jihadists just as much as we do. In fact, he probably hates them more than we do, because they’re a more immediate threat to him.

Related: What Should You Do in Case of a Terrorist Attack?

So why has the USA – and most of the western world – been so hostile to the Syrian regime? That’s a hard one to pin down. Most likely it’s because Syria isn’t a democracy, although it’s been moving towards democracy for a while now – Assad was re-elected in 2014, in the first real Syrian presidential election. A lot of western politicians are determined to spread western-style democracy, and Syria is on the target list.

Obviously, it’s better to live in a democracy like the USA than an authoritarian state run by an Arab Socialist strongman, but would Assad’s removal actually create a democracy like the USA? The likely answer is no. In the west, we vote according to what party’s platform matches our political beliefs, and we’re willing to change our minds between elections. In the Middle East, there’s no tradition of democracy and people vote on tribal or religious lines – the biggest ethnic group is basically guaranteed to win. We tried it in Iraq anyway, with the predictable result – the Shia majority installed a bigoted Shia democratic government in place of Saddam’s secular dictatorship. A democratic election in Syria would install a Sunni government, and that would very bad news for Syria’s religious minorities – Christians, Shia Muslims, Alawaites and the tiny Jewish population.

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Western politicians who want to intervene in Syria are usually motivated by wanting to help the Syrian people. Many in Europe are also worried by the number of refugees arriving in their countries, and think that stabilizing the country will shut off the flow. These are both respectable ideas, but in this case, they’re misguided. Deposing Assad will mean a Sunni regime – and very likely an islamist one – taking his place. That will be good for the Sunnis, but not for anyone else, so the only change in the refugee situation is that different people will be fleeing.

From the USA’s point of view the most important thing is that Syria is stable. If it becomes a failed state, like Libya, it’s going to be a breeding ground for anti-American jihadists. The civil war needs to end and the government needs to be in control of the whole country.

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Up until early April, President Trump was happy for that government to be led by Assad. Now there are signs that position is changing – but there aren’t signs of any thought-out alternative to replace it. “Assad must go” isn’t a policy, because it doesn’t achieve America’s #1 interest – stability. If Assad is removed all that’s going to happen is the various rebel groups will keep fighting for control. Some – the Kurds, for example – are happy to have their own parts of the country. Others, like Islamic State and the various other jihadi groups, want all of it. Most of them hate each other, and all of them except the Kurds also hate the USA. It is definitely not in America’s interests for any of them to take control. Despite the recent chemical attack – and there are very good reasons to suspect Assad wasn’t behind that – the best option for the USA is that Assad defeats the rebels and stays in power.

Related: The Most Common Biological Weapons (and Antidotes)

Should the USA step up its involvement to defeat the rebels on its own, so that a new government can be installed? That would mean troops on the ground – a lot of troops – because there are limits to what air strikes can achieve. Without infantry to move forward and take control of territory, ISIS and the other jihadis can hang on despite being seriously pounded from the air. It’s only strong ground forces that will sweep them away, and right now the only strong ground forces in the country are controlled by Assad. Between the remnants of the Syrian Army, and the support he’s getting from Iran, Assad has the power to defeat the rebels if Russia keeps giving him air support. Recently the government has been steadily expanding its zone of control at the expense of jihadis.

Related: Iran’s Nuclear March Approaching Success

Throwing US combat troops into the mix would be a dangerous mess. A lot of the armed fighters in the country are virulently anti-American; if there’s one thing that can unite the squabbling jihadi factions it’s the chance to kill Americans. The troops would almost certainly face a much worse situation than in Iraq, because the level of violence is already far higher than the Iraq campaign at its peak. Indirect fire, IEDs, small arms attacks, you name it – US ground forces would be facing it from day one. There would be casualties, and probably not much in the way of results to show for it. And that’s if it didn’t lead to conflict with Russia.

Related: The Real Reason Why We’re Losing to Islam 

Like it or not, Russia has interests in Syria. Assad is their last real ally in the Mediterranean, and in exchange for support he gives the Russians use of air bases and port facilities. That’s important to them and they don’t want to give it up. Russia also sees Syria as a useful counterbalance to the Sunni Gulf states. Finally, they don’t want to be humiliatingly pushed out of a client state by the USA.

Russia doesn’t have a huge number of military personnel in Syria, but many of them are embedded with the Syrian forces. If US troops ended up fighting Assad’s military there’s a good chance Russians would be killed, or Russian attacks would hit US forces. Neither Washington or Moscow wants a large-scale war over Syria, but these things can escalate unpredictably, so it’s best to avoid any chance of Russian and American troops killing each other. That can’t be guaranteed if they’re both in the same place, fighting on different sides.

Finally, there’s something the people who want the killing to stop need to think about. Right now, Assad is winning the war. Attacking his military will just mean the fighting lasts longer and more people will die. That isn’t something we should be causing, especially if some of the people who die will be American soldiers. Enough US troops have died fighting pointless wars in the Middle East already; why add to the total when there’s nothing worthwhile to be achieved from their sacrifice?

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C. Davis
By C. Davis May 19, 2017 08:48
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  1. Don May 19, 12:51

    Let Turkey and Israel deal with this mess. NATO can step up. We do not need to get involved.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rick Fortune May 19, 22:10

      First off, oil is of no consequence in this discussion. The media is telling us to hate Assad, not our leaders. The tribal devotion is no different than party politics in America- get over it , you are NOT the king. Whether or not the Kurds are our friends, they are trying to positively affect their own lives- that is who should be fighting for their ” country” first! Let the rats eat each other- don’t be stupid to send our troops to be cannon fodder. Syria and Russia may be allies. WE have allies too. and HUH, we go the table and find a solution as intelligent beings.

      Reply to this comment
      • Ben May 20, 01:47

        You are wrong. Our leaders DO want us to hate Assad. They CONTROL the media! (NOT including DJT of course, who is mediafodder)! Do you even KNOW how the problems in Syria started? I mean really? Without just listening to MSM? They were attacked by terrorists. How do you propose to go to the table and find intelligent solutions with terrorists? You’re going to compromise and make deals with them? I think you would find controlling people like that is not just a little diplomacy!

        Reply to this comment
  2. Scott May 19, 13:25

    Biased article on Syria.
    What has the US and other countries not learned from ousting similar leaders in Iraq and Libya?
    Do they really think it will lead to a different outcome?
    Why should the US have the right to force our ideals on other countries?
    Where exactly is the freedom and Republic Democracy in the US anymore?

    The West created the Middle East problems decades ago when we setup these different countries, tried to force tribes to stay within arbitrary borders, and thought these alignments would solve their tribal and religious differences.

    It all worked fine until the West installed leaders (Shah of Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq etc) until they stopped toting our water, doing what we said. Then things changed and it was time to monkey with the region again.

    Get the hell out. Protect our borders properly, control immigration, expand oil exploration, and then try diplomacy not mandates and force. Work a win win deal. They need crap drop us, we may need stuff from them

    Create a relationship, not a dictate. It won’t be easy or quick, but it’s the only thing that might work

    Reply to this comment
    • wa2qcj May 19, 18:10

      AMEN. We have no business being involved. Fine, Assad has done what we consider dirty to some of his people, but we do not understand their point of view. There is so much we do not understand about how those people think. Assad HAS done good to help protect Christians in his country. If the militants succeed, they will turn Syria into another extreme Islamic country. That definitely does NOT fit our point of view. Either A side with Assad, or 2, GET OUT, NOW!!! Their way of doing things is NOT our way of doing things. We should not be pushing our point of view on them. That has been going on for most of 100 years, and has led to the turmoil that exists there now. Protecting Israel is a must. Beyond that, get out, and stay out. It is not our fight, and aiding more violent Islamic regimes is bad for the world. If we aid anyone, it should be Assad.

      Reply to this comment
      • Ben May 20, 01:30

        Assad’s people love him. He has not done ANYTHING to his people! The media SAYS he does stuff. They have no evidence, no proof. Then they are proven wrong later; the TERRORISTS actually did it, not Assad. But stupid people STILL act like Assad is the one being a terrorist. This is SO sick! With as many proven, frickin lies that the media has fed people, and they STILL believe their BS! The TERRORISTS are the ones committing atrocities. At least when they are actually committed and not faked!

        Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 19, 18:33

      Actually, it was 100 years ago that the troubles in the middle east got their start. It was during and after WWI. 2017 is the 103 anniversary of the start of WWI. It was during this year that the U.S. started to get involved.

      Reply to this comment
      • Ben May 20, 01:53

        And HERE is a big coincidence! When did Jeckyll Island take place? Methinks it was 1913. ANOTHER coincidence; the year before WW1 started. And how much money did those bankers make off WW1 and WW2? From both sides of the table! Disgusting! (Hard to believe it has been over 100 years now since WW1 started!)

        Reply to this comment
    • Ben May 20, 01:51

      And don’t forget the countries that did not have our central bankers running them! As in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, another one I’ve forgotten, and I think N Korea. You know, the same countries we have to keep going in to ”fix” because we don’t like their governments because they are so MEAN to their people? None of them even mention all the other countries where people are brutally killed by their governments nonstop ad nauseum! They only concentrate on countries they want something from!

      Reply to this comment
  3. nacreek May 19, 13:26

    Go kick a$$ and take names. The U.S. needs to let the world know that we are tired of being taken for granted and only half way doing a job. Go in FULL FORCE and do what needs to be don and then get out.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bobbyleebobo864 May 19, 14:37

      Before we go anywhere to kick ass, we need to kick ass right here at home! We were attacked by global elitists when obama was put into office to destroy America! The ignorant among us swooned over that anarchist bastard! We must rid our country of our domestic terrorists aka the Democratic Party! They are a criminal organization and we must defeat them!

      Reply to this comment
    • Ben May 20, 01:55

      And just exactly why do you think that we should go wherever we want to, and do whatever we want to do? Have the Syrians ever bothered us? I think you will find the answer to be a resounding NO! How did the US obtain the right to order the whole world around?

      Reply to this comment
  4. flycatcher May 19, 14:29

    I say stay out of Syria and do everything possible to not put troops on the ground there just get out and stay out. Do everything possible to get out of the middle east altogether.

    People there hate each other and anyone who steps in to try to help as well they have been at it for thousands of years and if the human race survives they will still be at it until the end of time. That’s just the way it is.

    They have desert, sand, dates, and oil. We are not desperate for oil and could easily use and need less particularly if we weren’t forever sticking our noses in other peoples business and fighting with everyone who show us a mean face.

    Use our vast resources and economic might at home to revitalize our country and get our jobs or new ones back, that gives people a non warfare purpose and we may once again become a guiding light for others to follow on their own terms.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bobbyleebobo864 May 19, 14:41

      We can’t stand by and do nothing when Assad uses chemical weapons on innocent people! We waited too long to get Hitler, we can’t allow it!

      Reply to this comment
      • Grumpy Granny May 19, 17:32

        You cannot be sure it was Assad. Personally, I do not believe it was.

        The oil in the Golan Heights, that Israel stole (and has started extracting) and the fact that Syria does not have a Rothschild cartel bank are 2 Deep State factors. Creating an army of military age males (aka “Refugees “) to destroy Christian culture in Europe and the U.S is also part of the plan. Then there is the Greater Israel Project…
        We the People have nothing to gain from throwing another dime down that rat hole.

        Reply to this comment
      • Wannabe May 19, 17:33

        Really? Can’t compare Germany to Syria . Germany was a war machine and capable of wreaking havoc on their neighbors and the whole of Europe. Syria is not even close. I really don’t care about these people any more. If they want to kill themselves I am not going to vie for Americans to go die for their sorry butts because they are too stupid to take care of their own business. The only two we need to look out for is North Korea and Iran. They truly pose a national security threat to us.

        Reply to this comment
        • Ben May 20, 01:43

          And do you think they INVITED America in to help their ”sorry butts?” If you do, you need to do some investigation! Or are you just parrotting everything you hear from MSM? They actually DID invite Russia in and Russia went to help and actually bomb terrorists, instead of arming the terrorists! We are giving the terrorists the arms and supplies to kill innocent Syrian people and to do gas attacks and then turn around and say Assad did them. And you think THEY have ”sorry butts?”

          Reply to this comment
      • Scojac0757 May 19, 23:32

        He didn’t and there is no proof who did. My best is on the US intelligence community or globalist that are pushing for war, like McCain

        Reply to this comment
  5. Bobbyleebobo864 May 19, 14:50

    Barrack Hussein Obama is guilty of high-treason! He lied to congress about the Iran deal, they got their prisoners back, and millions of dollars more than Kerry and obama, told us! Benghazi was obama and Hillary arming terrorists telling the people not to leave any witnesses, then lied to us about it all, they did what we never do, armed our enemies and left our people helpless to die! Now we find out obama spent $36M in taxpayer money to hide his fraudulent truth from getting out! Obama employed the Muslim Brotherhood our enemies and allowed them to be in his administration and allowed them to view our classified information! So, look up treason, then you decide!

    Reply to this comment
    • foxheart May 19, 19:40

      you are soooooo brainwashed………..and i know it is stupid to try to make people like you see what you don’t want to see…..sorry you need to live on hate and its rationalizations…..i wish you luck

      Reply to this comment
  6. nacreek May 19, 15:17

    I can agree with the statements on Obama, but that is not the issue here. Syria is the issue. Of course we have to clean up at home but we can’t let Syria get by with nothing!!!

    Reply to this comment
  7. dP_Ted May 19, 17:17

    I’ve felt from the beginning we had no business there. We can’t believe anything we hear on the news about the situation, and even if we believe everything the current regime is accused of, it’s not our place to change it. The U.S. going in to a foreign country to change their government while our government is such a mess is hypocritical to the max. We need to GTHO!

    Reply to this comment
  8. left coast chuck May 19, 18:50

    The article is dead on in on respect. The Ole Gunny says you don’t own the real estate ’til you’ve got a Marine with a rifle standing on it. It has been true since the first monkey bashed another monkey tribe member over the heat with a branch. It’s still true today. If you want a glaring example, look at Iraq. We destroyed their armed forces but because of hubris of a civilian defense secretary, we didn’t own the real estate because we didn’t have enough troops in country to own the real estate. So, accepting that statement as dictum, the question then really is: Why do we want to occupy Syria? What geopolitical advantage is there to the U.S. to occupy Syria? They don’t have significant deposits of petroleum. They do have some good deep water ports, but we have equally good facilities in countries that are friendlier to us and our facilities in those countries are already developed. While Syria is close to Israel it really doesn’t pose a threat to Israel and besides, the Israelis have a much more vested interest in what happens in Syria than we. Assad is probably not going to get the Nobel Peace Prize nor the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Well, la de da! If we go about invading every country that has an a.h. for a leader, we will be busy, busy, busy. So Syria does not have a U.S. style of “democracy”. See preceding sentence about invading countries with a.h. leaders. Speaking of a.h. leaders, we haven’t been doing so well for quite some time now. Isn’t there an old saw about people in glass houses? So what would I do if I were in Donnie’s shoes? The first thing I would do is have our air forces stand down. I would tell Putin, “Hey, it’s your problem. Deal with it.” Then I would proceed to work on some of the problems we have right here at home. It’s not exactly like we have everything under control here in the good Ole Yew Ess of A. If nothing else, we need to stop spending money we don’t have. That Keynes philosophy that governments can spend their way out of financial problems didn’t work in the 30s and it hasn’t worked since. Time to ride a new horse.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Mad Max May 19, 23:50

    You ask why we are not out of the Middle East, well let’s think about it central banking system who we are the puppet for is one reason we are not out of the Middle East, the fight to keep the USD or the Petro dollar the main currency Hussein and kadafi tried to make the gold dinar the money to buy oil with and was going to flood the market with the gold dinar, well that got both of them killed and we used 9-11 for reason to go to war remember Wmds there never was any Clinton was the reason for kadafii’s death added to that as well opium is the reason we are in Afghanistan protecting the Royal family’s interest which is 90% of there income Genie oil is the reason there fighting in Syria Rothschild family and a few others want that land as well as putting there banking system in there too all these wars are big money it’s dates back as far as and past the world war l. It all comes down to one thing one world government you know the NWO and I can keep on going but I won’t, and if you connect the dots it tells the story of we’re and why we are still fighting it’s all about control and the money.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Ben May 20, 01:39

    We have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS being in Syria! I cannot even believe you would make the remarks you did about the US having ANY sort of business in oil countries! IT IS NOT OUR OIL! They are NOT our people, it is NOT our country, and believe it or not, WE ARE NOT THE BOSS OF THEM! The US needs to very quietly and apologetically get the hell out of there and leave those people alone! Russia can actually get rid of terrorists! They don’t need us over there accidentally bombing hospitals and such, nor trying to act like we are the tyrant boss policemen of EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD! I mean SERIOUSLY! Wouldn’t you think there were things we could spend blank checks on in this country that would actually help our people, instead of writing blank checks to kill people in other countries that don’t NEED us over there and don’t WANT us over there? Do we have THAT much money to spare? We need to frickin mind our own beeswax! And it is NOT like we can show them some wonderful governed country as an example as a great place to live! We just want their bank and their oil, JUST LIKE WE DID KADAFI’S! Paul Craig Roberts and Ron Paul tell it like it is!

    Reply to this comment
  11. Historian May 20, 13:45

    Wars are only “won” in the sense that one side becomes preeminent for a time. The American war of Independence war led to the war of 1812. The Civil war led to a lengthy and painful reconstruction. WWI led to WWII.which led to the cold war and the breakdown of colonial control and the rise of tribal religious factions. Wars are never over in the sense that the aftermath lasts a hundred years or more. Unless America is willing to occupy an area for at least sixty years like we have done in Germany and in Japan to suppress the post war rise of tribal enthusiasms and resentments, our efforts at intervention will always spawn some form of blowback.
    People have always desired a short victorious war but have rarely gotten one. The only “relatively successful” short wars America has fought in recent memory include Granada which was a mess of an operation but seems to have had few repercussions, the tanker war in which the US Navy with Air Force support clearly defeated Iran’s Naval forces, and the Libyan air war which set the stage for the Benghazi debacle but apparently little else. Ironically if one discounts the domestic politics involved and counts the
    loss of American life in Benghazi as combat related deaths this little war under Obama and run by a female Air Force General was probably the smoothest running and most successful war America has engaged in during the last fifty or sixty years.
    Come to think of it, another Irony to consider is that if America actually won the Cold War, why is Putin’s preferred presidential candidate in the White house? I know the Republican party has changed over the years, but to actually select a presidential candidate whose father in law was a member of the communist party makes me wonder at how quickly American s forget.

    Reply to this comment
  12. irked May 20, 16:58

    Rick; it would be a good idea to send your message to the President.

    Reply to this comment
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