President Trump’s intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria’s civil war remains in America’s security interests

April 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC—Following the most recent chemical attack in Syria, President Trump vowed that those responsible will have a “big price to pay.” Tonight, without congressional authorization, Trump announced military strikes targeting the Bashar al-Assad regime in response.

In response, Edward King, president of Defense Priorities, issued the following statement:

“The undeniably heinous chemical weapons attack in Syria is one of many atrocities from that country’s ongoing civil war. But outrage does not necessarily mean unauthorized military strikes are the appropriate response.

“We must think through our policy more carefully, otherwise the U.S. response to Assad killing people in Syria will simply be killing more people in Syria, the opposite of our intended result. Does a U.S. military strike actually do anything to lessen the suffering of those people? No, of course not.

“The most important policy question now is: ‘What comes next?’ Sometimes, as in this case, no good military option exists. The best possible option for America is to not get further involved in Syria's civil war, an intractable and complex conflict disconnected from our safety.

“President Trump was right when he announced his intention to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria’s long-running civil war. U.S. foreign policy should be guided by a realistic grand strategy, not dictated by the ebb and flow of local events in this brutal conflict.

“These strikes threaten to get the United States more deeply involved. We risk inadvertently prolonging the conflict and potentially clashing with nuclear-armed Russia or with Iran, rather than minimizing Syrian death and destruction. Another is getting dragged into a counterproductive, costly regime-change and nation-building operation.

“When it comes to foreign policy, outcomes matter, not intentions. As we have painfully learned over the last decade and a half, we should ignore the advice of those who are today clamoring for increased intervention. With no direct interests at stake and no good military options available, using other tools of statecraft is the wisest course of action.”

Kurt Couchman, Vice President of Public Policy at Defense Priorities, issued the following statement:

“Only Congress may authorize the use of military force in our constitutional republic, except to defend against actual or imminent attacks on the United States. The president acted without proper legal authority and without serious debate or decision from the people’s representatives. If Congress does not stand up for the rule of law, its continued erosion will undermine not only our security, but ultimately also our freedom and prosperity.”