Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, we learned of President Trump's plan to have American forces leave Syria immediately. In a video tweet published Wednesday, the President declared, "We have won against ISIS," and that it was consequently time to bring the troops home.
Sadly, the President is wrong in pulling our troops out of Syria.
Unquestionably, we all want our troops home. None of us wants even one American to die while unnecessarily fighting for a goal with no firm endpoint. And of course, no one wants our military engaged in foreign battles a moment longer than necessary. But the claim that we have defeated ISIS, although generally true, may not be completely accurate. And even more importantly, the United States still has multiple, bona-fide, national security interests in the region.
ISIS is one of the great evils of the twenty-first century. Their intolerant religious views coupled with their ruthless pursuit and punishment of all not subscribing to there radical Islamic tendencies crosses the threshold from fervent belief to unabashed power grab with no signs of self-restraint. Regardless of the faith, there is no defense of the mass decapitation, stoning, and burning of others, and there is equally no excuse for the sequestration of women and their mass rape. But these are mere standard operating techniques for ISIS and its followers.
The United States was correct in entering the theater for the purpose of destroying these inhumane elements. Moreover, historical hindsight now allows us to understand that a large factor in ISIS's ability to flourish was the Obama Administration's passive policies of leading from behind and not rocking the boat. From the void the United States left as it retreated away from the Middle East came the opportunity for mayhem and evil to spread, and ISIS mercilessly capitalized on it.
Through the efforts of our brave men and women, ISIS has been beaten back to a small and remote area of Syria where its members live holed up in caves and fearing for their lives. By most accounts, remaining ISIS forces number between 2,000 and 15,000 members and are devoid of a valid organizational structure.
But exist they do, and these fanatics would like nothing more than the opportunity to spread their influence and reorganize. Let us remember, this is a perpetual battle for ISIS; one of apocalyptic proportions and without rules of engagement. They will never go away.
Then, there are the regional issues. Iran, the greatest fomenter of terrorism in the world has only one goal in mind; the eradication of the State of Israel. For them, the end game is to drive every Israeli into the Mediterranean Sea and see them drown. Like ISIS, their vision is apocalyptic in nature and aspirational.
Crucial to Iran's plan is the establishment of a corridor of influence spanning from its western border to the Mediterranean Sea. Such a corridor would include deployed elements in Iran, Jordan, and yes, Syria. So important is Syria to the successful establishment of a corridor, that Iran has deployed personnel and rockets in coordination with the Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad.
Russia's interest in the area is different. For Russia, maintaining the Assad regime, even if it is in coordination with Iran means the expansion of Russian influence at the expense of the United States. For Russia, controlling Syria equals gaining a foothold in a region with a massive influence on the world's oil reserves and markets. It also means pushing the United States out of a geopolitical region where American influence is vital.
Viewed in its totality, America's continued presence in Syria is crucial to keeping Iran from forwarding its abilities to foment terrorism, keeping Soviet influence at bay, checking the evils of the Assad regime, protecting Israel, and preventing the resurgence of ISIS. In short, the stakes here are, quite frankly, way too high for the United States to abandon them at this time.
That our country would love to have their young men and women home, not just for Christmas, but permanently, goes without saying. That our country has seen involvement in way too many unnecessary engagements also stands without dispute as does the fact that American foreign policy and its attempts at regime change is mired with wrong decisions. But none of these can discount the dire consequences of our troops abandoning Syria. It is unfortunate that our country does not have a viable exit option at this time in Syria, and despite our intense desire for engaging in interventions with clearly defined endpoints, goals, and exit strategies, Syria and the Middle East is not one of those situations.
For all these reasons, our absence in Syria will come at an unacceptable price, one that the President must consider despite his desire to get our troops out.
In short, President Trump needs to rethink his position in Syria and engage in patient perseverance instead of an impulsive and ill-advised retreat.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and served in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.comto arrange a lecture or book signing.
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
Dr. Gonzalez is an orthopedic surgeon and lawyer serving as State Representative for South Sarasota County in Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages