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Fecteau: Congress is Missing in Action on the War in Syria

Monday, March 20, 2017

 

America has once again deployed conventional military forces in a Middle Eastern country, yet our Congress acts like nothing has happened. I am talking about Syria, where the Trump administration has deployed hundred so conventional forces. The current mission has a limited aim of defeating the Islamic State, but little else. Not since the Iraq War has the United States introduced forces into another country such a manner, but this time, with no debate in Congress. 

In the past, U.S. military generals have complained about micromanagement by the Obama administration. Unlike the Trump administration, the Obama administration was leery about introducing ground forces into a foreign country. The risks were too great, and the rewards were inadequate – as proven by the Iraq War. 

At the time of this writing, the United States has inserted US Marines and Army Rangers into Syria and will likely introduce conventional Army units. These forces will be auxiliary forces, supporting the siege of the Syrian city of Raqqa by rebels and Kurdish forces. This is similar to how we have supported the Iraqi Army in operations against ISIS. American troops are coming into Kuwait as a reserve force to support such efforts. 

 This is a mission with considerable risk. Our enemies can capitalize on this. The Syrian government called Americans invaders, and the Islamic terrorists can use this for their propaganda efforts; the American infidels are laying siege to another Muslim country. The potential for troop casualties is significant in the absence of serious security provisions. 

This war is already a complex mess. American forces will be in a war zone with many competing factions. Besides ISIS, there are al Qaeda affiliates, Syrian government forces, Iranian forces, and Russian forces. Even Israel has struck several targets in Syria. Now, with the introduction of conventional forces, that is just another variable in the mix. 

There is an immense difference between the Obama administration using special operators in limited situations in Syria and a large-scale deployment of forces. What will happen if US troops die? Will we escalate the war further or pull the troops out like Reagan did after the American barracks in Beirut was bombed during the 1980s conflict in Lebanon? These are not idle questions, but key decisions that need to be made before deploying soldiers on a multifaceted battlefield. 

Congress needs to have a serious discussion about the Syrian war before more conventional forces are introduced. Some, such as myself, may be unsure why conventional forces are needed to destroy this terrorist organization already on the brink of annihilation. The Islamic State will be defeated (everyone is certain about that), but Congress mustn’t shirk from its responsibility to discuss the means to this end.   

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) is a former White House national security intern and Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

 

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