@POTUS & @RoKhanna are right: U.S. military must quit Syria when ISIS is defeated

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Some people in the U.S. “national security establishment” – what former President Obama’s adviser Ben Rhodes once called “the Blob,” referring to Washington foreign policy “experts” who seem to always advocate for more war – are having a cow because President Trump has announced that he wants to withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria when ISIS is defeated. The ever-more-war crowd says the U.S. military should remain in Syria indefinitely to confront Russia, Iran, and/or the Syrian government.

But President Trump is right, and the Blob – as usual – is wrong.  

As progressive California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna wrote last week, "I am glad Trump is rejecting Tillerson’s neocon vision of asking U.S forces to stay in Syria illegally to counter Iran or to facilitate regime change. We must not maintain an indefinite presence there with no authorization."

Congress has never authorized any role for the U.S. military in Syria other than attacking ISIS and Al Qaeda. There is a longstanding dispute over whether even those things were authorized. But there is no dispute that Congress never authorized anything else. Under the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, as soon as the U.S. is no longer fighting ISIS or Al Qaeda in Syria, U.S. forces must be withdrawn. And so long as they remain, fighting ISIS or Al Qaeda – at most – is all President Trump is allowed to direct U.S. forces to do. If anyone wants U.S. forces to do anything else in Syria, they need to come to Congress and make their case and get a majority of the House and Senate to pass a specific authorization for the use of force to make those actions Constitutional.

Forcing these folks to make their case to Congress in full view of the American people will force them to distinguish between the military missions of combatting ISIS or Al Qaeda and any military mission they desire of combatting Russia, Iran, or the Syrian government. Not only are these different missions, they are likely to be contradictory. Whatever one otherwise thinks of Russia, Iran, and/or the Syrian government, they are opposed to ISIS and Al Qaeda. You don’t have to be a fan of Russia, Iran, and/or the Syrian government to acknowledge the basic fact that if there is a limit to how much blood and treasure we are willing to spend in Syria – which of course there is – then we might have to choose which priority we think is more important for the national security of the United States. The only Constitutional way to make that choice is with a majority vote in the House and Senate.

President Trump has been criticized for saying that if Saudi Arabia wants the U.S. to fight anyone besides ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, then Saudi Arabia should pay for it. But President Trump is right to call attention to the key role of the government of Saudi Arabia in pressing the United States for a more militarily aggressive policy in Syria. As in the case of unconstitutional U.S. participation in the catastrophic Saudi war in Yemen, we need to ask: why are we obligated to fight Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars in the Middle East? How is this in the interests of the majority of Americans?

Some who want to keep the U.S. military in Syria indefinitely argue that the U.S. military must stay to guarantee that ISIS can never re-emerge in Syria. But that argument is essentially a tautology. The only way the U.S. can use military force to guarantee that ISIS never re-emerges in Syria is to keep the U.S. military in Syria forever, which is of course exactly what these people want. They want to keep the U.S. military in Syria forever, like they want to keep the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen forever. According to these people, the right time to withdraw the U.S. military from any country is never. According to these people, the right time to withdraw the U.S. military from any country is after some vague, amorphous, ill-defined goal is achieved, which goal always seems to be just out of reach.

Urge your Representative and Senators to insist that the U.S. military be withdrawn from Syria as soon as ISIS is defeated in Syria by signing our petition.