USA Should be Engaged in the Middle East – but Trump Made the Right Decisions

USA Should be Engaged in the Middle East – but Trump Made the Right Decisions

Every mission has to have specific goals - and a deadline.

USA Should be Engaged in the Middle East – but Trump Made the Right Decisions

2400 1600 Michael Petraeus


rump remains the favorite punching bag for everybody – most politicians, journalists and “intellectuals”. Watching the coverage of his presidency one could be forgiven thinking that he is responsible for all of the world’s calamities.

Isn’t it amazing to see all those who protested when Trump ordered bombings against the Syrian regime, coming out today and lamenting military withdrawal from the country?

These are likely the same people who liked to call John McCain a “warmonger” and kept ridiculing G.W.Bush for all eternity. And now they demand the sitting president to heed their calls?

What he is actually doing – in the spineless, headless, gutless West – is leading.

Yes – leadership – an idea forgotten and virtually absent in the world of endless chatters, where every decision ends up neutered by the time it leaves countless committee discussions.

The role of a leader is not to appease everybody around him but to make decisions regardless of the sentiments.

Naturally, in the world of Western democracies, where every professional politician is merely an actor playing to the sentiments of the crowd that keeps electing him, the notion that you should do what’s right not what you think you should do to protect your image, is quite novel.

Perhaps that’s why Trump behaves so differently – he is not a career politician but a business executive used to making actual decisions.

This ability – to make a choice and act on it – separates the achievers from the meek masses. Most people are indecisive, most people are afraid of the risks and possible (usually imaginary) consequences. Most people like to play it safe.

But it is not how you achieve anything in life.

Ronald Reagan once joked that there’s nothing harder to kill than a temporary government program. Recently the same could be said about endless American military engagements on foreign soil.

American bureaucrats had two years under Trump to convince him of the necessity to keep troops in Syria. They failed. To be frank, they have failed to answer similar questions continuously for the past 15 years. Or even worse – there hasn’t actually been any leader who would have asked them.

So, today, when the current US president asks – “Why are we there? What are our goals? What should we tell the people?” – the bureaucrats can’t give a straight answer.

It should not suggest, however, that action is never necessary and that it is in American interest to leave foreign countries to themselves entirely.

The idea that USA should isolate itself from the world is incredibly dangerous and – in the long run – far more devastating than any engagement that the United States has ever undertaken in far-flung corners of the planet

You Can’t Shape the Future if you Refuse to take Part in the Present

Iraq is a good example. Intervention starting in 2003 had at least well-established goals: reform the country, bridge the hostilities between dominant ethnic and religious groups and then pass governance into their hands. That happened within 5 years from the invasion – and military presence that followed was meant to protect the patched up state as it tries to stand on its feet. Today Iraq might be corrupt and fractious but it is a working state, with public services, education, healthcare, good deal of infrastructural investment, where majority of the population lives in relative peace.

Syria, on the other hand, is a divided, fallen state, which has reached a stalemate in already 7 year long civil war, with no concrete resolution in sight.

Unfortunately, the US forfeited its position as a stakeholder there when Barack Obama was called on his “red line” bluff in 2013. When Assad’s regime gassed civilians in Ghouta, the great American empire failed to react in any way (despite the threats from the White House), leaving space for Putin to sweep in and act a as a peace dove, guaranteeing (supposedly) chemical disarmament of the Syrian authorities.

USA was humiliated and since then Russia (and Iran) knew it could do anything it wanted without fear of any retribution.

It was Obama’s indecisiveness around the same time that gave rise to ISIS and led to collapse of Mosul, which made it the wealthiest terror group ever to exist. Such were the consequences of “strategic patience” in the White House.

It is clear to see that appropriate action taken early on would likely have prevented the calamities of the following years, resulting in far smaller loss of life. It could also have thwarted the rise of ISIS before it had become an international phenomenon. In addition, it would have kept out both Russia and Iran from active and broad engagement in the country – as well as Turkey from meddling in its affairs, trying to assault the Kurdish population there.

USA would be calling the shots and have the final word on whether the vicious regime in Damascus has the right to stay – and who could take its place, protecting American interests in the region.

As it is, American soldiers are reduced to a tiny expeditionary force risking their lives to combat an already broken and isolated terror group, relieving all the real stakeholders of this responsibility. What a marvelous present for Putin, Assad, Erdogan and Khamenei!

It is therefore easy to see why there’s hardly any need for America to stay involved. ISIS as a group presenting a material threat to the West has been neutered. ISIS as an ideological organization inspiring terror attacks worldwide is still a threat – but it cannot be defeated in the Syrian deserts.

The only reasonable decision in this case is to withdraw. Support for Kurdish troops remains a priority – but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of American blood. Money, equipment and training can – and should – still be provided.

So don’t blame Trump for the Syrian exit – he inherited a situation created by meek bureaucrats and career politicians occupied more with their personal popularity than strategic interests of America.

They could have acted much earlier, preventing the disasters – but they failed. And now they have the impudence to demand American soldiers keep putting their lives on the line when they lacked the guts to do what was right years ago.


Michael Petraeus

Economist, marketer, designer and business strategist publishing about the past, present and the future.

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