The news that the Trump administration intends to pull troops out of Syria signals the United States’s deteriorating role as policeman of the world; although our nation’s focus since the Cold War was on stabilizing volatile regions where liberal democracy could prosper, the time has come for the U.S. to adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy.
Since the concluding victory of the Allies at the end of World War II, America has solidified its position as a world power and a defender of freedom and democracy against ideological enemies such as the Soviet Union, Iran and China.
Post-Soviet Union, however, the U.S. has continued to assert its dominance on non-state actors and to intervene in foreign conflicts on the basis of protecting “democracy” and “human rights.” Most of the military intervention has occurred in the Middle East, most notably Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt.
The absence of a true enemy has led the U.S. to enact military campaigns, such as the War on Terror, on groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. The war against ISIS has largely been successful in reducing the Islamic state; the BBC reports that ISIS has been reduced 98 percent since 2014. However, Al Qaeda still exists in cells scattered across the Middle East and North Africa.
While fighting the War on Terror in Syria, the United States has also taken the opportunity to oppose Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on the basis of human rights violations. Syria’s civil war has left the country in ruins; Assad is leading government forces against rebel factions, Kurds, and ISIS.
ISIS itself was indirectly created by the U.S. invasion of Iraq after many high-ranking Al Qaeda officials left when the group was diminishing in numbers. ISIS then began to take control of western Iraq and eastern Syria. In fact, in a report by Conflict Armament Research, some anti-tank missiles exported by the U.S. and sold to Syrian opposition forces — which were funded and supported by the United States — ended up in ISIS arsenals. In some instances the weapons were found in the hands of ISIS within weeks of its transfer, suggesting that ISIS was part of the same weapon supply chain as the rebels. The CIA allegedly ran a covert program that funded various rebel groups which opposed Assad, but this program was reportedly ended by the Trump administration in July of 2017.
But the harsh reality is that — despite their human rights violations — leaders like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and past leaders Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, are necessary for the stability of the Middle East. Authoritarian leaders will provide stability to regions prone to religious extremism and terrorism through the use of force. Politicians who claim that intervening in the Middle East can bring in western values display a fundamental misunderstanding of the culture and history of this volatile region.
It is not the moral obligation of the United States to intervene to protect the citizens of other nations. The purpose of the government is to prioritize the protection and liberty of its own citizens above all else.
When Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya, the aftermath of the war did not stabilize the country and install a western-esque government; there is still chaos, bloodshed and war in the streets. Western intervention only led to worsening results, with the Islamic State in Libya now expanding and taking matters into its hands.
The economic repercussions these wars have had on the economy are bad enough. A study conducted by Brown University in 2016 estimated the total costs of the war in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and homeland security to be $4.79 trillion. The national debt is estimated at $21 trillion, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be paid off any time soon.
For practical purposes, it would be in the nation’s best interest to look toward isolationism and return to focusing on domestic issues than create more problems overseas.