What are we still doing in Syria?

Congress refused to authorize American intervention in Syria in 2013. Still, we sent in Special Forces. Congress later authorized a smaller intervention against ISIS. The caliphate was smashed, after President Trump changed the rules of engagement, and the president claimed credit. Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, had crushed most of the rebel forces. All done, U.S. troops can come home, having not been authorized to carry out any other missions by the people through their representatives. Right?

Wrong. Last week, in a speech at the Hoover Institute, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson relayed America’s latest policy in the Syrian civil war. We’re staying. And we’re going to accomplish everything we failed to do over the last half decade. We’re going to finish off both ISIS and al-Qaeda. Then resolve the conflict between Assad and his opponents, diminish Iranian influence, make the country safe for returning refugees, and ensure that there are no weapons of mass destruction in the country. And we’re going to do it without committing major resources. Yessiree, we’re going to lick this Syria problem even though our putative allies in the region are now more divided than ever.

The Congress and the U.K. Parliament both declined to go along with the elite consensus for regime change in Syria years ago. Later, Russian intervention on Assad’s behalf surely had some persuasive power of its own. So too the realization that the “moderate rebels” were little more than a PR front group for al-Qaeda. But Tillerson tells us it is still American policy to plan “for a post-Assad Syria.”