Security, Middle East
Proponents and opponents alike of a U.S. presence in Syria would do well to remember this fact.
Syria in 2019 is Not Iraq in 2003
Over the last few months, the status of America’s presence in Syria has been a roller coaster of epic proportions. President Donald Trump’s announcement in late December that the United States would withdraw all troops from the country in the shortest time possible came as a shock to the military, to many in the administration itself, and most especially to those in northern Syria where U.S. troops are operating. Later it was announced that the United States would keep four hundred service members in the country, which will shift the burden to allies but preserve the precarious balance that currently exists in the country’s north. The details remain unclear and may consist of an even slower drawdown. President Trump had campaigned on getting the United States out of Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State, but no one expected the announcement to come so soon and so suddenly. The announced withdrawal prompted criticism from the president’s friends and foes alike, but also was welcomed in some corners. Those supportive of the president’s move to withdraw pointed out, rightfully so, that many of those advocating for a U.S. presence in Syria were the same figures who led us to war in Iraq. They were wrong then, and are wrong now, the argument goes. But is the situation of Syria in 2019 comparable to that of Iraq in 2003?