By Benjamin H. Friedman and Justin T. Logan
More broadly, there is no windfall to be had for Iran or Russia in Syria beyond helping wind down a sectarian civil war — a grim payoff in the best scenario. Contrary to the report’s reasoning, helping to govern impoverished territory riven by sectarian violence cannot propel a state to regional dominance or global gains.
Instead of empaneling a group of experts to help oppose the president’s policy, Congress should have taken a vote on whether the United States should be at war in Syria at all. ISIL did not exist when the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed, and it takes an ambitious lawyer’s leap of logic to include a group that didn’t exist in that authorization. Nor does international law justify the U.S. troop presence, as occupying Syria has not been authorized by the United Nations Security Council or invited by the barbarous regime in Damascus. If Congress wants U.S. troops in Syria — and based on the Syria Study Group and its actions, it seems to — senators and representatives should have the courage of their convictions and take a vote, hold hearings, explain their reasoning and take responsibility for the outcome.
Perhaps the best one can say of the administration and the legislature is that they have finally found a way to work together: in ensuring that U.S. troops stay in Syria for the foreseeable future, with a mission far beyond their reach, in pursuit of goals unrelated to U.S. national security.
This piece was originally published by War on the Rocks on May 30, 2019. To read this piece in its entirety, click HERE.