Mark my words: an American soldier will soon die for next to nothing in Syria. Here’s a mission that takes all the absurdity of America’s post-9/11 wars of choice to their logical conclusion. As such, this muddled and aimless operation must stand forever tall in the pantheon of U.S. foreign policy folly – right up there with the three Seminole Wars (1817-18, 1835-42, 1855-58, 1,608 dead troops); Nicaraguan “Banana Wars” (1910, 1912-25, 1927-33, 159 dead); the Russian Civil War’s “Siberia” intervention (1918-20, 424 dead); “Desert One” botched Iran hostage rescue (1980, 8 dead); Beirut “peacekeeping” (1982-84, 265 dead); the Grenada invasion (1983, 19 dead); and Somalia (1992-94, 43 dead). So, in Trump’s defense – and that of the Washington crowd that’s repeatedly pressured him to stay the Syria course – his latest folly is in good company.
Of course, US service-members have already died in Syria – about ten so far. Not that many Americans much noticed. When the last soldier died in a “very unfortunate mishap,” General Kenneth P. Ekman, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (the ongoing mission in Iraq and Syria) assured reporters that there were “no indications that any Russian activity existed in the area” or that the patrol was “anything other than a normal patrol.” Have no fear though, since Ekman added that the deceased was “important to the mission.”
Well now, amidst a whole range of post-Russiagate alarmism, an Afghan “bounty” scandal that wasn’t, and in response to the (gasp!) Russian “ramming” of an American party three weeks ago, Washington is sending in reinforcements to buck up that US military non-mission in Syria. This ought to up the odds of another service-member dying for nothing, or, if we’re really lucky – kick off an unnecessary shooting war with the world’s only other nuclear superpower. Either way, we’ll largely have the Trump-obsessed Democrats and hawkish establishment Republicans to blame.
So what sort of cavalry is inbound to save the day and – per the New York Times headline – “counter the Russians” in Syria? You guessed it: just enough to get a handful of Americans killed and/or spark a foolish fight, but far too few to change the combat calculus on the ground. Wait for it now. The Pentagon just added about 100 troops – some mechanized infantry, Sentinel radar and an increased the frequency of fighter jet patrols – to the existent 500 or so soldiers in Syria. Striking!
Well, what will they do there exactly? Demonstrate “US resolve to defend Coalition forces in the [Eastern Syria Security Area], and to ensure that they are able to continue their Defeat-ISIS mission without interference,” according to the lifeless email language of US Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban. But wait – I thought this essential infusion of troops was meant to counter the nefarious Russians. No, no, Uncle Sam only sends its armed peacemakers 6,000 miles from home to defend themselves, God, country, and worldwide freedom, naturally. After all, Urban added, “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend Coalition forces if necessary.” That’s refreshing.
This much is increasingly, if disturbingly, clear: the folks reporting, advising, and crafting strategy for Syria, haven’t the faintest idea about what’s really going on there. Seriously, it’s no longer mandatory for pundits, politicians, or policymakers to know any things about Syria in order to tell us what to think, and decide what to do in our name.
The cycle of farce goes something like this: partisan self-styled “experts” gin up an ostensible interest in a far-flung land; then send in some troops, who enter a confusing complexity that looks nothing like they’d been briefed; a few get killed; their bodies are flown in the night to that ubiquitous Dover, Delaware airbase; then, either no one notices nor remembers why they’d been deployed in the first place, or chickenhawk pundits and politicians wave their flag-draped coffins to blame Russia, Iran, or whichever “enemy” favor-of-the-moment will win them partisan points. Rinse and repeat – devastated mothers and spouses from forgotten corners of America be damned!