In Iraq we attempted to use American military might to remake a society into something it was not. For the effort to succeed we would have needed to enact social change and create national unity on a massive scale and in an incredibly short timeline. The situation in Syria is markedly different, however: we are supporting a local entity that emerged organically, has proven itself capable of providing stability and governance, and we are merely providing the military firepower and expertise needed to allow that entity to succeed. The Syrian Democratic Forces and its civilian counterparts are the bulwark against an Islamic State resurgence, not us; we are merely providing a helping hand. This fundamental difference is lost on the expert class on Capitol Hill and in the think tanks of DC. They were so wrong about Iraq and the Arab Spring that we should probably never listen to them again; President Trump is right to ignore their advice. It is a shame that they happen to be right about us staying in Syria, as that may be what prompts us to leave prematurely.
Samuel Sweeney is a former congressional staffer and is now a writer and translator based in the Middle East. He has a master’s degree in Islamic-Christian Relations from l’Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. Image: Reuters