Are We Syrious?
Wednesday, January 24, 2019
Fort Lauderdale, FL
President Trump’s proclamation to remove US troops from Syria has prompted frantic reactions that illustrate the illogic and failure of America’s foreign interventions and role as the world’s police force. Some of his political opponents who condemned his insertion of US combatants in Syria now condemn the decision to remove these forces parroting the arguments espoused over the many decades of the American Military’s overseas adventures. This week, a terrorist bomb tragically killed four Americans involved with the US Military presence in Syria, a tragic event but something that has been spun by pro-intervention voices to justify continuing US troop presence on Syrian soil. Do we need Captain Obvious to point out that, had there been no US presence in Syria, those four Americans would still be alive?
The Syrian scenario is like so many of the past. Our politicians and the mainstream media sold us a classic good guys/bad guys plot with America to ride in and save the poor, oppressed commoners. Western Europe and the US initially provided Syrian rebels with intelligence, training and logistic support with the goal of toppling the evil and oppressive Assad regime all the while fantasizing that a Western democracy would flower in that Arab Spring desert. Instead, a complex civil war mushroomed involving 6 or 7 factions mostly fitting the bad guy category with ISIS exploiting the chaos by expanding its caliphate. As is so often the case, US involvement escalated to providing weapons and cash to rebel factions then culminated with direct American combat participation in the conflict. Since 2011, hundreds of thousands are dead and wounded, more than 6 million people have been displaced and Syria’s infrastructure lies in ruins. Granted, ISIS has lost its territory but Bashar Assad remains firmly in power.
So-called foreign policy experts cry out that the US cannot abandon a friend and ally in Syria for America would lose its credibility in the world. The same argument was made about the Vietnam War where our friend was so corrupt and oppressive the CIA engineered a coup to install a new friend. By the end, nearly 59,000 Americans died yet, upon US withdrawal, totalitarian communism did not sweep Asia and American credibility was unchanged.
Our previous Republican administration launched an invasion of Iraq because an evil dictator had amassed weapons of mass destruction to point at the United States. It turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction yet “Operation Iraqi Freedom” resulted in the deaths of some 4,500 Americans and triggered a civil war killing over 1 million Iraqis. The power vacuum created enabled the rise of ISIS, a regime as compassionate as the Khmer Rouge. To this day, no flower of democracy is growing in that desert either but sectarian violence flourishes and George W. Bush has a hat embroidered with “Mission Accomplished”.
Republicans and Democrats deride Libertarians on the question of overseas military intervention dismissing them as “isolationists” but nothing could be further from the truth. Libertarians advocate active interaction with nearly all nations. The difference is such involvement consists of free trade between private businesses rather than the Federal Government supplying weaponry, taxpayer cash and sometimes American lives to third world kleptocracies. Free trade involves voluntary transactions between two parties that engage in such transactions because both parties are better off as a result of the trading. This foreign policy leverages specialization/comparative advantage thus creating prosperity and innovation for the trading countries and the world. A byproduct of the free trade foreign policy is that it enhances peace. Trading nations develop greater understanding of each other and simply have too much to lose by engaging in sanctions and warfare. Best of all, free trade comes with no strings attached. Despite a small group of elitists pushing their preconceptions of “universal human rights”, the US is not to dictate that another country have fourth gender restrooms, a different immigration policy or any other relinquishment of the trading nation’s sovereignty for doing so is blatant neo-colonialism.
Withdrawing US forces from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign places is long overdue. Unfortunately, it is more likely we will see a headline stating that a crisis has erupted in the Venal Republic and the world’s cop, citing moral imperative, must go in. Operation Venal Freedom will cause the next iteration of Beheadings-R-Us or outright anarchy with the predictable loss of life and mass suffering. Once US forces are inserted, they cannot be removed as the War on Terror has no end. It’s a sad and tragic Catch-22 – a trap of our own making.
By Steve Litton – Member of the County Executive Committee, Libertarian Party of Broward County.