New Op-Ed: It Is Time To Get Our Troops Home From Syria | Opinion

Mar 16, 2023

Recently, my colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced a resolution to remove the United States Armed Forces from Syria, which I immediately supported. It is but one of many necessary steps to redirect our nation’s foreign policy away from a failed internationalist foreign policy consensus—on both sides of the aisle—that for a quarter century has wasted our resources and carelessly spilled the blood of our soldiers across the globe.

Let’s get some facts straight. A few hundred troops will not change anything on the ground. The argument that keeping Americans overseas is necessary for stopping terrorist attacks is absurd. Frankly I’m tired of hearing, “if we don’t fight them there, they’ll come here.” By that logic, the entire planet demands an American forward presence.

Syria is a prime example of America’s flawed foreign policy status quo, kept alive by warmongers on both the Right and Left. President Barack Obama‘s naive campaign for regime change in the Middle East fundamentally misunderstood the region at large and was a futile experiment.

Obama’s half-hearted slogan, “Assad must go,” raised false hopes among a certain section of Syrians that only extended the civil war, and pushed Russia to defend its warm water port in the Mediterranean and get involved militarily. Worse, it resulted in a civil war which directly resulted in the rise of ISIS. Decades later, Americans are still policing a land that presents no direct strategic interest to the homeland of the United States.

Local terrorism in distant countries is not an existential threat to America and can be effectively managed by long distance capabilities and prudent alliance strategies. Local allies and their armies, local tribal militias and proxies, intelligence, and offshore naval presence are capable of managing the dual threat of rising terrorist movements and potential local hegemons, neither of which currently exist in Syria nor the greater Middle East. The threat of ISIS is currently minimal and if it rises again as a functioning state, it will not take us much time to return and crush it. In short, nothing in the region demands constant troop deployment and endless war.

In fact, if members of Congress genuinely worry about terrorists in America, as they say they do, we need to focus on the two problems our foreign policy pundits have consistently ignored, misread, and downplayed: our nonexistent southern border and the influx of terrorists coming into our own country, and the rise of a peer rival in China.

Terrorists quite literally walk across our southern border, a national security crisis that our current president’s policies deliberately facilitate. Why aren’t the billions of dollars spent in the Middle East being invested in guarding our own border? Why are American forces patrolling distant nations yet not our own, which is under threat? Why was the equipment left behind during our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan not sold or shipped to Taiwan?

Peace is accomplished through superior firepower, a sense of realism, an understanding and prioritization of true threats, and prudent leadership. A grand strategy requires a plan, not perpetual blunders of a failed foreign policy consensus repeating itself for decades in every region.

America’s “nation-building” in the Middle East was not a prudent policy. It took billions from our own citizens and funneled them to NGOs, militaries, failed governance programs, and foreign aid waste while leaving many regions destabilized. All that has resulted from this failed mission is the Middle East emerging as a region of permanent protectorates, with zero upsides and no measurable benefit to the United States. In fact, it has only increased local hostility.

The Middle East is a region with ancient tribal rivalries and various dormant social issues that are not for Americans to fix, either through blood or treasure. American foreign policy needs to recognize these realities.

Make no mistake—if we take China’s word for it, the main challenge ahead of us is coming from Asia. The Chinese government would love to see us bankrupt, militarily vulnerable, wasting our tax dollars, and draining our weapons in Middle Eastern or Eastern European backwaters. And while we have been busy policing these countries, China has been harvesting many of their natural resources with our help.

The era of utopian foreign policy ideas based on faulty theories is over. We need realism in our foreign policy. America’s job is not to police the streets of Aleppo. It is to focus on American borders, and law and order in American cities. Although this resolution to bring troops home from Syria did not pass, one in four of our counterparts agreed with us—including members on both sides of the aisle. The time to reject the era of these failures is now.

Members of Congress don’t swear an oath to the people of Syria, Ukraine, or anywhere else. They swear an oath to the people of the United States.

Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna serves as the Representative for Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District. Rep. Luna is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus and is a US Air Force veteran.

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