President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria is a mistake. But unlike so many of his other ill-considered moves, this one is completely conventional and consistent with the bad choices of past presidents.
For the past 20 years, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has resembled a yo-yo diet. We declare we have gotten too heavy in the region and need to spend more time on what really matters – China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. We announce we are leaving the region. We start to reduce our military presence and senior leaders spend more of their time on other topics.
This strategic decision is reinforced by politics. The American public is sick of fighting wars in the Middle East that make no sense, cost a lot of money and have nothing to do with their daily lives.
But inevitably we go too far. We diet too heavily too quickly in a way that is not sustainable. We leave ourselves vulnerable, most notably to terrorist attacks but also to other problems that jump to the front page of the news and create a political outcry at home to act. And so we respond by again binging on the Middle East until it’s time to try another extreme diet.
Read the full commentary in POLITICO.
More from CNAS
CommentaryDon’t Believe Netanyahu. Israel Doesn’t Need The Jordan Valley. Here’s Why.
This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, concurrent with rising speculations that the Trump administration may suppor...
By Ilan Goldenberg
ReportsIn Dire Straits?
In a joint report from CNAS and Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA, Ilan Goldenberg, Jessica Schwed, and Kaleigh Thomas assess what would happen to the...
By Ilan Goldenberg, Kaleigh Thomas & Jessica Schwed
CommentaryTrump Needs to Reestablish Deterrence with Iran
The attack attributed to Iran on Saudi Aramco oil facilities is the latest in a series of Iranian escalations—the May 14 and June 13 tanker attacks, the June 20 downing of a U...
By Kaleigh Thomas & Elisa Catalano Ewers
VideoNicholas Heras on Killing of ISIS Leader in U.S. Military Raid
The Center for a New American Security’s Nicholas Heras talked about the killing of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. military raid in Syria. Listen to th...
By Nicholas Heras