Syria: Is Trump Finally Putting America First?

Photo Credit: by Chocolate Horlicks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

During a visit to Ohio to promote his infrastructure plan on March 29, US president Donald Trump dropped one of the bombshells that Americans have become accustomed to over the last year and a half: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon …. Let the other people take care of it now.”

If he’s serious, if the more hawkish members of his administration don’t dissuade him, and if he follows through, Trump will be taking a giant step in the right direction on foreign policy. The US never had any legitimate business in Syria. Its military adventurism there has been both dumb and illegal from the beginning.

Yes, illegal. Congress has never declared war on, or against any force in, Syria. For that matter, it hasn’t even offered the fig leaf of an extraconstitutional “Authorization for the Use of Military Force.” Former president Barack Obama just decided to go to war there, did so … and got away with it.

And yes, dumb. The rise of the Islamic State in Syria was a direct consequence of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. American military intervention in Syria using the Islamic State as an excuse simply doubled down on that previous mistake.

While I carry no brief for the Ba’athist regime headed by Bashar al-Assad, that regime has never offered the US or its allies anything resembling a legitimate casus belli. US calls for “regime change” and backing for anti-Assad rebels (many of whom seem to be foreign jihadists rather than domestic dissidents) remind one, as they should, of similar calls regarding the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. After nearly two decades of “war on terror,” following through on those calls would just add a third quagmire to the set.

Then, of course, there are the Russians. Russia and Syria have been allied since the days of Assad’s late father. Syria provides Russia with its only naval base on the Mediterranean (at Tartus), and the two states have been linked by a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” since 1980. Among areas where the new Cold War could turn hot in a hot minute, Syria stands out.

Trump’s first year and change as president has been marked by a bellicosity at odds with his sometimes non-interventionist statements on the campaign trail. Around the globe he has continued and sometimes escalated the war policies of his predecessors. But between a prospective summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and now talk of withdrawal from Syria, perhaps those of us who have considered him “business as usual” on foreign policy, and his remaining non-interventionist supporters naive, will get a big plate of crow to eat. If so, I’ll gladly have seconds.


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Facebook Comments

9 thoughts on “Syria: Is Trump Finally Putting America First?

    1. You comment on most of my columns, so you must have a short memory. I’ve supported Trump on cutting foreign aid, cutting US Department of Education spending, ending Net Neutrality, presidential vacations and golfing breaks, the absurd criticisms of Kellyanne Conway for talking up Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, the F-35 boondoggle, his personal sex life not mattering, and Russiagate, to name a few columns that come to mind from the last year or so.

      Of course, he often says one thing and then five minutes later says — and does — the opposite. But when he’s saying, or doing, the right things, I say so.

  1. .Just when will you grasp that our presidents will either be rep or dem and your liberatation party will never have a chance. Use your vote to pick the the best choice of the 2

    1. I don’t owe my vote to either bad choice. If the rest of you want to waste your votes on TweedleDumb and TweedleDumber that’s your business, but I don’t have to join you in your insanity.

        1. If that’s true, it’ just as true of you.

          Trump carried Florida by 112,911 votes. If you hadn’t voted, he would have carried it by 112,910 votes, and received exactly the same 29 electoral votes.

          Your vote made no difference whatsoever to the outcome of the election.

          1. You have a strange way of seeing things..
            5 of them votes came from our family. Ours were important as the race was close and we could be dealing with Killary. She came far to close. Trump did make some mistakes while running and it cost him votes. So far we are happy with him.
            But I do respect you for your beliefs.

          2. Your family’s five votes didn’t change anything. All they meant was that he carried the state by 112,911 votes instead of 112,906 votes.

            They had precisely the same effect on the race as my single vote for Gary Johnson, which was no effect at all. If all six of us had voted differently, Trump still would have won the state and he still would have received 29 electoral votes for winning the state.

            Votes are an aggregate. The only way to change the outcome of that election would have been to (for example) convince about 65,500 people who had planned to vote for Trump to vote for Clinton instead.

            Which, if you are a campaign worker, is a viable goal.

            But as an individual voter, there’s no reason to vote for any candidate other than the one YOU support for the reasons that make sense to YOU. Since I cared very little which of the two major party candidates won the state, and since I knew my vote would carry no weight in determining that outcome in any case, I didn’t have any reason to choose between the two worst candidates. I was perfectly free to vote for what I wanted most instead of just holding my nose and voting against what I wanted least.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.