Political Consequences of the Syria Withdrawal

Trump’s decision to leave Syria has wide public support, but in Washington, no good deed goes unpunished.

Political Consequences of the Syria Withdrawal

Of great interest in 2019 will be the follow-through on Trump’s announcement of US withdrawal from Syria. Out of all the campaign promises made, it’s one of the few that can’t be thwarted by a court injunction. A federal judge has no jurisdiction over a military order from the commander-in-chief.

Guised in the absurd canards of fighting ISIS and stopping Assad from gassing children, the actual purpose of US intervention is to facilitate the overthrow of the legitimate government in order to expel Russia and Iran. Iran is the backer of Hezbollah, which Israel perceives to be an existential threat. To counter Hezbollah, they need Assad gone.

Russia on the hand, isn’t acting on an anti-Israel agenda. It certainly isn’t pro-Hezbollah, either. Its self-interest is in stopping the US from knocking off another ally, the government of Syria, and depriving it of a Mediterranean naval base as part of a broader campaign of encirclement.

Wrecking Syria, coming to the brink of conflict with Russia, countering Hezbollah—none of this benefits the US. Over 8,000 soldiers dead, many more maimed, and at least 6 trillion dollars squandered thus far—Americans are sick of the ill-fated “War on Terror,” even though most don’t understand it was a neocon campaign to advance Israel’s objectives. They also don’t understand the extent to which Israel’s security is falsely conflated with that of the US. Still, it’s obvious to a casual observer that much has been lost while nothing good has been accomplished.

Like anything concerning Trump, the MSM is howling. How is this different from any other hour the day for the past 3 years? An anti-war move will be welcomed by more than half of the public. Trump and his two predecessors ran successfully on platforms of less war (Bush in his first campaign).

This tops the hysteria priority chart, enabling him to take some pressure off other angles of attack with something he can point to as a positive. He’s getting the media to inadvertently tout his anti-war accomplishment rather than his amorous encounters. Whether or not that’s his goal, it’s working for now.

Let’s make a few (quite substantial) assumptions to get a sense of how this might play out in terms of domestic political risk. First, Trump doesn’t change his mind. All soldiers and contractors are withdrawn. Air strikes come to a halt. Second, his orders are complied with in good faith. The intervention won’t continue in some other form. If so, what costs might be imposed on Trump?

Bear in mind this would be a serious blow to Israel’s security objectives and the Russian encirclement policy of the DC establishment. This isn’t something Trump has ever attempted before. Despite the stink they make about him, he’s recognized Jerusalem as the Jewish capitol and opened the money spigot to both Israel and the US military. The screws are getting turned on Iran and conflict in the Ukraine is heating up. He’s managed to keep the situation in Syria from escalating, but until the withdrawal announcement, he hasn’t actually rocked the boat. Shaking Putin’s hand doesn’t count, despite the fake uproar.

If he goes through with what he says will happen, that would be an explicit acknowledgment that Washington’s priorities are wrong and counterproductive. Worse still, it shows they can be reversed according to the electorate’s wishes. This would be unprecedented.

Thus, a rogue president reversing the policy of perpetual war in the Middle East and easing the pressure on Russia would inevitably be inviting a huge risk. What form that would take? Most likely the ongoing theme for Trump: impeachment.

Democrats will have the simple majority of votes required for the House of Representatives, but not the two-thirds super majority needed in the Senate. An actual assault on the neocon foreign policy consensus and the directives of the Israel lobby (DC’s most influential) could garner Republican votes to oust him.

The Democrats are under tremendous pressure from their base to go for impeachment. They’ve been squawking about it since before he took the oath of office. Perhaps this could be how a perfect storm of votes comes together if a suitable pretext is delivered by Mueller. The withdrawal itself is being used to bolster the claim that Trump is a traitor.

There’s already outrage coming from senators like Graham and Rubio. Trump has no shortage of enemies in the Party who don’t understand why its losing its ability to remain viable at the national level. They stupidly believe that things can return to normal even though demographics are making that impossible. This might be a saleable rationale, but that’s a stretch.

So, would the risks be worth it? Absolutely yes, because they’re quite low compared to the potential upside. Impeachment probably wouldn’t work. There’d be a substantial amount of Republican turncoats needed in the Senate to get a two-thirds super majority. For the Democrats, the risk of making Trump a martyr for trying to reverse an unpopular foreign policy would be a disaster if it fails as he’s gearing up for reelection.

Republican electoral demographics will be even worse than 2016. Trump needs to go into his 2020 reelection bid with demonstrable results in order to pull off another razor-thin victory. He’s beset on all sides and will be prevented from getting any real legislative wins by the Democrats. Delivery on a major campaign promise is a necessity. He said he’d do things differently. Syria was one of them.

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