The president who originally claimed to be against getting involved in ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (even though he originally supported it in 2011) is escalating the U.S.’ role in the Syrian conflict, and in the Middle East in general. The New York Times reports the U.S. military is increasing its footprint in a variety of military entanglements with no real end in sight:
The United States launched more airstrikes in Yemen this month than during all of last year. In Syria, it has airlifted local forces to front-line positions and has been accused of killing civilians in airstrikes. In Iraq, American troops and aircraft are central in supporting an urban offensive in Mosul, where airstrikes killed scores of people on March 17.
Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames.
This is another example of President Donald Trump deciding to keep a policy enacted by ex-President Barack Obama Administration in place. There were some non-interventionists who were thrilled at the prospect of a Trump presidency, because they believed he would keep the military out of wars they had no business being involved in. The problem is Trump’s promise to destroy ISIS basically erases the non-interventionist’s dream because it means more and more military action. Via NYT:
Plans have been announced to send 300 United States Marines to Helmand Province, their first deployment there since 2014. And the American commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., told Congress in February that he would like another “few thousand” American and coalition troops.
But the changes have also been notable in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, all home to overlapping conflicts in failed states where jihadist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have taken advantage of the chaos to step up operations.
There are obviously going to be people saying, “Oh the U.S. has to be involved in the Middle East,” but why aren’t they willing to admit Trump’s inconsistency on foreign involvement? He told The Wall Street Journal last year there were plenty of things he didn’t agree with regarding Syrian policy, yet sends more troops to the region. The Pentagon rightly ends drone strikes in Yemen, yet increases air strikes, which is basically like replacing a small hammer with a sledgehammer, instead of considering other options. The fact the Pentagon is investigating an airstrike in Syria which may have killed 49 civilians is extremely troublesome.
This isn’t suggesting the hands of the previous administration aren’t stained with the blood of civilian deaths. Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic last December how ex-President Barack Obama was misleading in suggesting his administration did all it could to curb civilian deaths via drones (emphasis original).
In any case, Obama chose to allow the CIA, a secretive entity with a long history of unjust killings, to carry out strikes; he chose to keep the very fact of drone killings classified, deliberately invoking the state-secrets privilege in a way guaranteed to stymie oversight, public debate, and legal accountability; and he chose to permit killings outside the greater Afghanistan war zone, in countries with which the U.S. was not at war. Those choices made more unjust killings predictable and inevitable.
That should have been obvious to a former senator and constitutional law expert who knew, among other things, that the CIA had recently run an illegal torture program. The CIA then got carried away with the power to kill in secret in multiple countries.
Obama couldn’t foresee that?
This is why it’s rather ridiculous for NYT to attempt to paint Obama’s Administration as a group of people who tried to avoid getting involved in military conflict, as much as possible. The piece includes the very laughable line of American troops going back into Iraq to “train and advise Iraqi forces, and also provide firepower, so they could “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.” This is a strange way to write, “leading attacks on ISIS in Mosul,” and can be seen as the NYT still trying to hold water in Obama’s claim he ended the war in Iraq (which never ended in the first place).
The fact is this: the current administration is simply following the previous administration’s attempt to escalate foreign entanglements, instead of looking at things a “different way,” like Trump kind of promised during his campaign. It means the non-interventionists who railed in favor of Trump’s election have egg on their face in ever thinking things would be different (much like Democrats who were shocked when Obama started appointing D.C. insiders in 2009 after campaigning as an outsider). The question people need to ask, especially those who want to see the U.S. not get involved in conflicts, is where does the line stop and will the president ever be called out?
The other question is … where the frack is Congress in all this? Yes, they’re holding hearings, but the last time I checked, only they had the right to declare war and military action against others. There hasn’t been a vote to be involved in Syria, nor has their been a vote to be involved in Yemen or a new vote on Iraq. Shouldn’t someone introduce a resolution on this? If not, then it’s just another example of the federal government failing to follow the Constitution. Not that anyone should be surprised at this.