Regime change advocates, neocon beltway hawks, and all the usual armchair warrior zero-skin-in-the-game think tank interventionistas are in continued meltdown mode after Trump confirmed plans to withdraw American forces – some 2000+ troops and personnel – from Syria. On Friday the president told senior White House aides that US forces will be exiting Syria after public comments made earlier.
In statements carried by Reuters, Trump said, “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.” As we noted last week, the timing of Trump’s dramatic Syria turn corresponded with news of an American soldier killed in Manbij in northern Syria (killed likely by an IED alongside a British coalition soldier overnight last Thursday).
Perhaps to be expected, the weekend editorials and cable news pundit shows reacted in disbelief and horror – with charges of “chaos” at the Trump White House over Syria policy, and claims that “ISIS will come back” if America leaves. Nevermind the fact that Trump himself while on the campaign trail in 2016 stated in public speeches and in a tweet (and linking to a declassified intelligence memo) that US support to jihadists in Syria under President Obama is precisely what fueled the rise of ISIS in the first place.
CNN, for example, painted a picture of mass revolt among the ranks of military officers and career State Department officials, asserting that, “Any decision by Trump to pull out of Syria would also go against the current military assessment, a fact that left some national security officials concerned about the impact of a withdrawal, another senior administration official told CNN.”
No, there’s no “chaos” when it comes to Syria policy at the White House – Trump is doing exactly what he pledged to do while previously on the campaign trail, and he’s further continuing what he started when he nixed the CIA’s regime change program last summer.
But it’s funny and very telling how brazenly honest interventionistas and deep state bureaucrats suddenly become in their motives whenever Trump speaks truth on Syria. Consider prominent Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who the day after Trump’s announcement of leaving Syria lamented while quoting a pro-regime change activist, “We took the oil. We’ve got to keep the oil.”
That’s right, the mask of pseudo-humanitarian high-minded noble ideals comes off (the Josh Rogins of the world care nothing about actual Syrians), and we learn that it’s actually all about…
Oil! Oil! Oil! Iran! Iran! Iran!
Map source: WINEP
No more pretense and the slick language of R2P military intervention for the sake saving civilians in Syria… Rogin’s op-ed is aptly titled, In Syria, we ‘took the oil.’ Now Trump wants to give it to Iran.
Rogin, like other interventionistas, has no more cards to play, thus we find these straightforward admissions in his column:
Perhaps he would back off his urge to cut and run if he knew that the United States and its partners control almost all of the oil. And if the United States leaves, that oil will likely fall into the hands of Iran…
Control over oil is the only influence we have in Syria today…
“We have this 30 percent slice of Syria, which is probably where 90 percent of the pre-war oil production took place,” said David Adesnik, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is leverage.”
Astoundingly, these words are still being published 15 years after the myriad lies of the Iraq invasion …no shame, no regrets. And a host of other mainstream journalists in New York and DC greeted Rogin’s column as “refreshing” and respectable “essential reading” (as if it’s not the same pro-regime-change script which has dominated talking points for years).
Meanwhile, a well-known Syrian-American Middle East analyst and actual expert on Syria effortlessly shreds Rogin’s supposed “realist” points with ease (Rogin likes to think of himself as a foreign policy ‘realist‘ …he’s no such thing):
Whenever one thinks Syria analysis has hit bottom, nonsense like comes along to remind us otherwise. Josh Rogin’s piece makes a set of outrageous observations that has become a mainstay of Syria’s war coverage over the years. Let’s establish the facts first.
Iran’s expansion that Josh Rogin wants to “counter” did not start with Syrian war butstarted in the aftermath of the ill-advised Iraq invasion that opened the pandora box which we are still dealing with today (Birth of ISIS is another). Interventionists have a short memory.
Syria’s alliance with Iran did not start with the Syrian war. It was cemented after Damascus decided to side with Iran during its war with Saddam’s Iraq in early 80’s. At start of Syrian war, Tehran decided to pay back the favor and came to Assad’s aid when no one did.
What Josh Rogin still can’t comprehend is that countering Iran is positively correlated with ending the Syrian war and not by adding more fuel to it. Iran’s influence grows when Damascus is threatened and not the other way around.
Syria is not Saudi Arabia. Even before the war, it’s oil production was mere 150K barrels a day. This is a drop in the ocean when it comes the regional oil producers. Asking Trump to grab the oil shows total lack of understanding of scale or strategic importance.
Indeed, by grabbing what little oil Syria has all you are doing is giving Iran and other allies of Syria more leverage. The more Syria can stand on its feet the less it needs those allies like Iran that you want to counter.
So it’s not only his conclusions, but every assumption of Rogin and his ilk concerning the Middle East is simply dead wrong. But at the very least these moments serve to remind us of what morally corrupt failures the Washington class of inverventionistas have been, and that it’s certainly not their own skin in the game when they argue for “taking action” whether in Syria or other parts of the world (the establishment political and pundit class is all too willing to send the sons of others to die in foreign quagmires with dubious aims).
Finally, it should be noted that Josh Rogin published his piece the same day Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar died in Syria (identified by the Department of Defense on Saturday). Rogin is ultimately arguing that more Americans must stay in harm’s way for “control over oil… the only influence we have in Syria today.”
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With that, we’ll leave off with the following excerpted wisdom from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Skin in the Game:
“What you had historically is warmongers were warriors. And he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword… Now suddenly–and that’s only recent–we developed all these weapons and technologies and stuff like that, so you can have people cause wars and not be exposed. And not only that, but as was Bill Kristol… he’s a prime example.
The people who caused the war in Iraq… absolutely no cost to them. Or a cost that’s very small, very tiny reputational cost… And then after they cause a war in Iraq–and of course we have a disaster–they will intervene again… in Libya and of course in Syria.
What happens with these people is that given that there is no skin in the game, there’s no learning… In the real world, these people should be dead, because basically, if you cause a disaster… so many of them would be… pruned out that way instead of letting others die.”