Finally, the United States cannot and should not remain in Syria to protect the unofficial, semi-autonomous Kurdish zone, known as Rojava. The Kurds had their own reasons for fighting ISIS and did not thereby earn permanent protection, especially from Turkey vis-à-vis America. Moreover, any security guarantee would be up to Congress. Overall, occupying the Kurdish area in Syria endangers American security by entangling the United States in a war zone with multiple competing forces representing conflicting powers, all of which have more at stake and thus are prepared to incur greater risks and costs in pursuit of their objectives.
Even Pentagon officials who want to maintain the U.S. forces in Syria are contemplating the need to leave if Ankara again invades. Turkey’s previous move to occupy indisputably Kurdish territory near Afrin, Syria, nearly led to crisis when Ankara and Washington both threatened each other. With Turkey now preparing to create its own buffer zone American forces could find themselves in the middle of a wider war. Reported the Wall Street Journal: “U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Turkey soon will mount a major incursion into northern Syria and trigger a clash with Kurdish fighters, a move likely to prompt the Trump administration to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria to avoid a conflict.”
Of course, some analysts still lobby Washington to play social engineer in a land not vital to U.S. security. For instance, the congressionally established Syria Study Group insisted on the otherworldly “sound U.S. policy toward Syria demands sustained political commitment by the senior leaders of the U.S. government, as well as a strategy that aligns means and ends.” That “sound policy” is absent from every aspect of Washington’s Mideast agenda: multiple civil war misadventures, disastrous invasion of Iraq, botched confrontation with Iran, counterproductive blank check for Israel, and costly coddling of Saudi Arabia. The belief that bright, committed policymakers in Washington nevertheless can get it right this time and force Syria, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Gulf States, Kurds, and most everyone else in the region to do Washington’s bidding is an arrogant fantasy, wildly disconnected from reality.
The Trump administration should bring U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war to a close. Not every tragedy is America’s problem. Not every problem can be solved by America. It is time to leave the solution to Syria’s tragic conflict to others.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.