The United States began air strikes in Syria more than four years ago, with a rationale for intervention that morphed from fighting Islamic State terrorists to demanding regime change. More than three years ago, the United States sent in ground troops — a number that quickly grew from 50 to 2,000 soldiers — even though Congress has never, to this day, authorized their deployment in Syria. On Dec. 19, President Donald Trump ostensibly ended U.S. military involvement in Syria with a tweet: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” The withdrawal schedule is still vague, however, as is the announced withdrawal of half of the 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan.
“We applaud President Trump’s tweeted intentions as a good start,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “If he’s able to withstand pushback from interventionist hawks in both the Democratic and Republican parties, he will have succeeded in ending U.S. involvement in one of the seven wars that this country is fighting.”
The United States will still have a huge presence in Afghanistan even if half of all troops actually leave. There are also active U.S. troops in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, and Libya. All of these wars are being fought under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was passed by Congress 17 years ago to fight militants linked to al-Qaeda anywhere in the world.
“The military-industrial-intelligence-security complex has profited handsomely from this widespread warfare,” Sarwark said. “We should never forget, however, that hundreds of thousands of innocents have been killed and maimed by American-made bombs and drones, creating an exponential increase in the number of terrorists willing to attack the United States.”
Many of these countries have vulnerable populations who face genuine danger from terrorists or invading governments, so war hawks often argue that the United States should not abandon the Kurds, Saudis, Israelis, and other allies in the region.
“This begs the question of why we made those alliances in the first place,” Sarwark said. “Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that it is perfectly capable of defending itself. Saudi Arabia is a medieval-style monarchy with autocratic legal practices not seen in the West since the Inquisition — none of which is worth defending. The Kurds are a people without a country who are trying to secede from Iran, Iraq, and Turkey simultaneously. We may sympathize with their attempt at self-determination, but the United States is not obligated to make it happen.”
President Trump’s signature policies — including tariff hikes, immigration crackdowns, and building a Mexican border wall — are not popular among the American people. When it comes to withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan, however, public polling shows majority support. A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll published in The Hill indicates 52 percent in favor. A 2017 survey by J. Wallin Opinion Research found that 86.4 percent of respondents think U.S. military intervention should only be used as a last resort, with 57 percent believing that military intervention is counterproductive. A Pew Research Center poll from September found that 49 percent of Americans think we have failed in achieving our goals in Afghanistan, with only 35 percent believing that we have mostly succeeded.
“We are a republic, not an empire,” Sarwark said. “When we attempt to be an empire, it goes badly. Supplying American weapons for the Saudi war against Yemen is particularly appalling. Many thousands of Yemenis are being systematically starved to death in what amounts to a proxy war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that stretches back through centuries of religious and tribal conflict. We can’t fix it, and we shouldn’t try.”
The Libertarian Party has often denounced President Trump’s policies, and will undoubtedly continue to do so well into the future. It’s important, though, to acknowledge when a politician happens to get something right. The more the United States withdraws from foolish participation in wars around the globe, the better.
“American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world,” the Libertarian Party platform states. “Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.”