The United States Needs to Step Back


Institute for the Study of War

These are the current factions fighting for control and which part of the land they own. ISIL has been pushed back to a fraction of their previous size.

Drake Trent, Feature Editor

Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. 14 countries. The United States has bombed or occupied all of these countries since 1980. That is 14 countries too many, with millions of dollars wasted and for what? Our ulterior motives or each country’s individual well being? Hint hint, bombing a country isn’t normally good for it’s well being.

Our military involvement in other countries keeps increasing, often in the name of the war against terror. This is by no means an ignoble cause, but it is increasingly entrenching the US and our soldiers in the politics of other countries. The continued presence of soldiers and continued military action only serves to inflame Bashar Al Assad, without knowing what the consequences can be. Furthermore, US presence in other countries has only worsened the situation by the time our occupation is over. Overall, The United States needs to work to extricate themselves from the affairs of other countries, especially Syria.

To continue operations in Syria under the pretense of fighting ISIL is a tad misleading. As of Jan. 2018, ISIL only has 7% of their original landholdings in Syria. For reference, that is about 57% the size of San Diego. The fight isn’t over, but with much of the leadership ladder taken out, and casualties reaching over 24,000, intense fighting and boots on the ground are no longer needed. If military involvement is absolutely necessary then it should be limited to drone activity, which doesn’t come without its downfalls, but is more cost effective than maintaining 2,000 soldiers in Syria.

Beyond direct US involvement in the country, there are several US allies or US friendly groups that could step into previously held ISIL territory and prevent a resurgence, especially with proper funding and aid. Currently there is a 60-country coalition working to eliminate ISIL, meaning there are 60 countries that could step into any US-held positions or hold back any further attacks to regain territory. The remaining 6,759 kilometers are already being assaulted by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US funded rebel group, with such a weakened scale of operations there should be relatively less resistance for that group to step in. Beyond that, the Syrian Kurds have also been receiving funds and air support from the US, offering another group to step into the power vacuum that will be left.

The current funding, $12 billion in Syria as of 2016, would be reduced greatly if the US left the country and only offered financial support. Admittedly, these plans do tend to fail, as seen in past attempts in Iraq. However, Syria has presented itself as a different situation and the groups here are not dependent on US training and support.

In general, even outside of Syria, it’s not the United States’ job to ensure every country is well policed and democratic. If other groups want that for the world, it’s their responsibility, not ours. Far too many of our soldiers have lost their lives over the years in the name of installing a democratic government no one asked for, but that we told everyone else they needed. For example, our military casualties went up this year, one of the first times this has happened in recent years. While the number of overall deaths is still low, an increase is unacceptable. The prime example of these deaths were the soldier who were ambushed in Niger. Many questioned why the US even has soldiers in the country and there has been no strong answer. While the general claim is for intelligence reasons, it’s unlikely that the intelligence did much to protect US citizens, it is more likely that it was of aid to the Nigerian government, which has its own military and soldiers and does not need Americans dying for their benefit.

Furthermore, public opinion is no longer on the side of foreign intervention. The Charles Koch Institute reports that 67% of Americans feel the world is no safer than when the war in Iraq started. So why do we continue to do it if there has been no change? It’s beginning to echo Vietnam in terms of usefulness and undying commitment. Why does the government continue to risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and family for a moot point? That is an answer that no one knows. Perhaps it’s to avoid wounded pride, like that after Vietnam, maybe there is money being made for those in charge, or maybe it’s just plain blindness to the desires of the public. These wars are unnecessary from both a standpoint of the economy and human life.

Now some of you may feel that the US does need to intervene, especially against dictators who have no regard for human life, like Assad. Especially after recent chemical attacks. However, attacking the regime, on a full scale, would require a legitimate declaration of war. While those attacks are not a terrible reason to declare war, the consequences are far greater than they may initially appear. The Assad regime is propped up by Russia, China and Iran, all of which have less than ideal opinions of us, and could in turn declare war on the US. In fact, Putin has threatened retaliation if the US acts militarily against the Assad. A daunting prospect, especially for those who may be drafted.

For too long has the United States had its fingers in everyone’s pie. We need to step back, step down and focus inwardly for a while. Our politics are more polarized and divided than they have ever been, our infrastructure is failing, and our homeless and veterans are massively mistreated. Maybe instead of building someone else’s country, we can build our own for once.