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Why Trump’s Right on Syria

In late October, 1983, at the height of the Lebanese civil war, a truck with 12,000 pounds of explosives detonated at the Marine barracks in Beirut.

241 U.S. soldiers were killed.

Ronald Reagan wasn’t sure what to do. Should the U.S. maintain its U.N.-backed presence in the conflict? For several months, he deliberated as the conflict raged.

In February of 1984, he decided to withdraw our troops from Lebanon. This acknowledgment, that America had little strategic interest in remaining in the conflict, was rare for a U.S. president.

Of course, Reagan’s common sense does not comport with the pro-intervention tilt of hawks like John Bolton, who wrote in a 2011 Los Angeles Times editorial that the Lebanon withdrawal was “a rare failure of will by then-President Reagan.” Please.

If these conflicts were as pernicious and sticky as the Boltons of the world believe, then Hezbollah’s attacks would have followed the United States after its withdrawal from Lebanon. Terrorism by Lebanese radicals would have surely inundated us for the last 30 years.

But as University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, a suicide terrorism researcher, points out, the suicide terrorism in Beirut was a direct response to the intervention and ended the moment that the foreign militaries withdrew.

What does all this have to do with Trump?

Everything. Because Trump, whether he knows it or not, is implementing the lessons of history in a way few presidents have had the guts to do.

And there are many, but the one lesson Trump would rather not repeat is this: don’t put American troops needlessly in harm’s way.

For everything else he says, does, or tweets, Trump has been remarkably consistent in this point.

We have no interest in staying in Syria, or in repeating the countless disasters of continued U.S. intervention in civil wars in the Middle East. Trump was one of the only voices in not just the Republican primary, but among all presidential candidates in the 2016 cycle, to endorse a restrained foreign policy.

That belief was, to the surprise of many in the beltway, very popular in the heartland.

All that said, we aren’t totally withdrawing from Syria! Just from the northern border with Turkey. This is a limited move, but you can see how hysterical the D.C. reaction has been over the last couple of days.

I will leave you with President Trump’s own words. As skeptical as I have often been of him, my goodness, he is completely right on this.

If it turns out that Syria descends into total chaos and Syria’s Christians, who are mostly loyal to Bashar Al-Assad by the way, are persecuted more than ever before, I’ll come back and eat my own words. But I won’t have to. Trump’s right.

And his statements here, highlighting the competing powers in the Middle East, prove he has a more complete understanding of Middle East policy than Bolton’s crowd:

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