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On the one hand, Trump's removal of troops from Syria signified the end of Kurdish independency as they were forced to officially rejoin Assad's regime to protect themselves from a Turkish invasion. On the other hand, removing troops from the Middle East was seen as an important goal for many anti-war politicians and activists ever since the Afghan war began.

Did any supporters of de-escalation of US engagement in the Middle East commend Trump for finally doing a significant move in this direction?

  • This question seems to imply that US involvement in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or other middle east countries are all equivalent. Perhaps the question can be clarified on whether looking for a statement from someone critical of US involvement in Syria (mentioned in title/question), critical of US involvement in Afghanistan (mentioned in question), or critical of all involvement in the middle east (mentioned in question). Otherwise it's unclear who counts as a "supporter of de-escalation" or not. – BurnsBA Oct 17 at 21:26
  • Apparently the troops from Syria are only getting moved to Iraq instead of really going home. politics.stackexchange.com/a/46614/18373 – Fizz Oct 20 at 15:08
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Most anti-war politicians have not, because the withdrawal from Syria does not really represent a real withdrawal or a significant decrease in American military presence in the Middle East.

As the AP reports (thanks to @Fizz for pointing this out), Defense Secretary Mark Esper has announced that the troops being withdrawn from Syria won't be coming home to the US: instead, they're going to Iraq to continue fighting ISIS:

[Defense Secretary Mark] Esper’s earlier comments to reporters traveling with him were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they shift from Syria and what the counter-IS fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift about 1,000 troops from Syria into western Iraq.

Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions: help defend Iraq and perform a counter-IS mission.

Esper discusses keeping small US force in northeast Syria - The Associated Press

At the same time Trump announced that he was withdrawing 50 troops from Syria, he announced the deployment of 3000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia for potential use against Iran:

WASHINGTON — The United States is sending about 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia in the latest military response by the Trump administration after it accused Iran of attacks last month on Saudi oil facilities, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The move came only five days after President Trump said that his desire to terminate America’s “endless wars” led to his decision to pull back from the border area between Syria and Turkey about 50 troops who were working to create a “safe zone” between Turkish and Kurdish troops.

Trump Orders Troops and Weapons to Saudi Arabia in Message of Deterrence to Iran – The New York Times

As of the end of October, it seems people's skepticism was well founded: as The New York Times reports, Trump has reversed course and is increasing the number of US troops in Syria, back up to a number near the original level:

WASHINGTON — Every day in northeastern Syria, waves of American troops are pulling out under President Trump’s order this month that paved the way for a Turkish offensive that included assaults on the Pentagon’s allies, the Syrian Kurds.

And at the same time, a separate wave of American troops from the opposite direction is pouring back in.

In fact, once the comings and goings are done, the total number of United States forces in Syria is expected to be about 900 — close to the 1,000 troops on the ground when Mr. Trump ordered the withdrawal of American forces from the country.

...

By Oct. 20, things were shifting again. Mr. Trump was talking about the need to protect the oil fields in eastern Syria. Pentagon officials began working on a plan to send additional American troops to guard oil fields.

When combined with the troops at Al-Tanf, that brings the number of American troops projected to be in Syria to near 900, a number that could easily rise if, as expected, the Islamic State begins to make a comeback.

Hundreds of U.S. Troops Leaving, and Also Arriving in, Syria - The New York Times, 10/31/2019

So, in the end this so-called "withdrawal" appears to be little more than a troop relocation.


And finally, even if US troops had been withdrawn from Syria, the initial plan was only to withdraw 50. The US expanded the withdrawal plan only after pressure from Turkey and Turkish-backed militias:

Less than 48 hours before the withdrawal announcement, U.S. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had given assurances that the troops would remain indefinitely, standing by their Kurdish partners to continue to hunt down the Islamic State.

But the Turks’ capture Sunday of a key highway that served as the U.S. troops’ main supply line revealed the fragility of [their] mission

The hasty U.S. pullback from Syria is a searing moment in America’s withdrawal from the Middle East - The Washington Post

In summary:

  1. The troops aren't being withdrawn – they're just being moved to another war zone to continue the same mission
  2. Instead of decreasing, the number of US troops in the Middle East has actually increased, and they've done so in a way that represents an escalation in tensions with Iran, thus making war more likely.
  3. The so-called "Withdrawal" appears to have been little more than a troop relocation. As of November, the total number of US troops in Syria is little changed from the number that were there before the "withdrawal"
  4. Even if US troops had actually been withdrawn from Syria, many would question how much credit Trump should get, since that plan seemed to have been driven more by circumstances than any actual plan or desire to bring US troops home.
  • 3
    Since U.S isn't involved in a war in Saudi Arabia, I don't see the relevance of mentioning that. – dan-klasson Oct 17 at 21:52
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    @dan-klasson The point is that if you're sending more troops overseas, you're not withdrawing troops. And, of course, those troops aren't just going on vacation – they're there to deter Iranian attacks. Which means an increased risk of stumbling into a new war. They're relevant because the total US military presence in the Middle East (and the exposure of US troops to war in the Middle East) hasn't decreased in any significant way – divibisan Oct 17 at 22:04
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    Deterring war causes war? Sounds like me like you're grasping at straws. – dan-klasson Oct 17 at 22:13
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    I don't think Iran has any interest in starting any war. And I think any anti war person would welcome their troops being out of harms way. – dan-klasson Oct 17 at 22:22
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    @KDog That’s fair, since it’s ultimately a subjective judgement. I think the point of view of the question is "Trump withdrew these troops, why don’t people give him credit”. That passage explains why they don’t. It’s certainly reasonable to disagree with that point, but it’s a position many hold, and I think it’s relevant to why people don’t give Trump the credit he would have gotten if he had argued for the full withdrawal up front. – divibisan Oct 18 at 16:06
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Did any anti-war politicians commend Trump for removing US troops from Syria?

Yes, Senator Rand Paul did.

Iraq. Afghanistan. Now Syria. We hear that our presence could be needed for decades. To what end? What do we hope happens during that time? I, for one, don’t see what our national interest is in policing the Middle East and nation-building. Thankfully, neither does President Trump.

His bold action to remove our troops from Syria is the continuation of his policy to leave that civil war. He sought to defeat the Islamic State and did. What is left is a decades-long battle among Turks, Kurds and Syrians that we cannot solve.

Every decision has a price. Would you be willing to send your son or daughter to stand between two armies 7,000 miles away as a human shield? I would not.

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    Rand Paul called for airstrikes against Isis. He is basically only anti-ground-war and only when it comes to US forces. – Fizz Oct 18 at 6:12
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    @Fizz Ah, the "No true Scotsman" approach. Can you name any anti-war politician that meets your requirements? – Sjoerd Oct 18 at 8:24
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    By your account Obama was also "anti-war" because he preferred drone strikes, so you are rendering the term rather meaningless. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-war_movement for the actual meaning "opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause." That there may be no electable anti-war politicians in the US is besides the point. – Fizz Oct 18 at 8:51
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The most ardent and outspoken anti-war member in Congress; Senator Rand Paul (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) commended Trump for this move. Here is a relevant USA Today article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/10/16/donald-trump-right-leave-syria-rand-paul-editorials-debates/4003497002/ The following is a direct quote of a tweet from Rand Paul posted on Twitter: "The Constitution is quite clear. No authorization has ever been given for the use of force in Syria. No authorization of declaration of war means no permission to be there at all..."

  • 1
    Isn't this duplicating Sjoerd's answer? – Fizz Oct 20 at 5:30

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