Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

A Look Into Trump’s Decision to Withdraw US Troops From Syria

By Louise WangPublished November 29, 2019

Trump recently made the decision to withdraw troops from Syria, leaving the world wondering what is next to come. While the majority believe that Trump's decision is a bad idea, this article shines light on the other side of the issue.

 Trump has made yet another big mistake. Supposedly. The recent move by the Trump administration to withdraw US troops from Syria has received criticism from both political parties, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even calling the decision a “grave strategic mistake.” That’s understandable. Trump is pulling troops from the Northeastern territory in Syria where the US-backed Kurds have been fighting, allowing Turkey to now invade the area and launch their operation against the Kurds. The politics of this is tricky, and Trump has opened Pandora’s box by entering into an agreement that shatters their alliance with the Kurds. However, what isn’t considered in the whole debacle are the positives that arise from taking the US out. American soldiers are being saved and we are pulling ourselves out of a war that we never should have gotten ourselves into.  

 It’s understandable why many call the withdrawing a loss, especially those who compare the act as to when Nixon pulled US troops out of Vietnam. There’s this fear stemming from Vietnam that as soon as US troops are taken out the rebel forces will start to collapse and Assad will win the war. This kind of predictive thinking is what got the US into the Syrian war in the first place. The need for the US to “protect the world” and use their military power to establish themselves in unstable countries ends up backfiring when the US becomes more and more involved and the cost to establish itself in those war regions largen. It’s understandable that given the US’s sizable military and power in foreign affairs that the US shouldn’t always stand to the side when there are deep times of conflict, but there are other ways to help countries in need that don’t require the bodies of American soldiers. With developing technology and extensive data collection on Assad, the US could do just as damage, if not more, in Syria. 

 There are currently 11,000 troops stationed in Syria. Given the political and logistical conflicts, it may take at least a month, if not more, before troops are beginning to be taken out. But those are still 11,000 lives that are in Syria. Troops that risked their lives, watched people die, and have come home with memories of burning buildings and chemical weapon attacks. Soldiers risking their lives for a war that is not theirs to fight.

 Some are concerned about the US becoming an unstable ally because Trump pulled out so abruptly and allowed Turkey to launch their invasion. In response, while Trump could have handled the decision with more thought, it was almost inevitable that the US would have to pull out eventually, regardless of the politics. The Syrian War has been going on for over ten years and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. If the US had stayed in Syria, eventually public opinion would have turned negative (like Vietnam) and by then the US would have contributed so much more in weapons, troops, and technology with no gain. There was never a right to pull out, nor would there ever be a right way, and it had to be done. 

 Trump is in an unstable place right now because of how abrupt the decision was made. But the actual decision to remove troops is not new. Obama during his administration also tried to pull troops from Syria, and it’s been a hot topic of debate for a while as to whether or not we should do so. What needs to be done next requires the US to dedicate more drones and technology to save civilians. Turkey is going to invade and the US needs to make sure that innocent civilians in the area are not in harm’s way. 

 The US has battles that it needs to win. Syria is not one of them.