Syria war shows U.S. stuck in Middle East quicksand - Kinzer

A pledge by the Trump administration to keep a permanent presence in Syria is a reversal in policy and means the United States will be stuck in “quicksand” in the Middle East with no foreseeable end, writes Stephen Kinzer in The Hill.

“Today, there is no Soviet Union, and we no longer rely on oil from the Gulf,” Kinzer said. “We should be looking for ways to withdraw from that region and focus on truly urgent global challenges, especially those emerging in East Asia.

“But like an addict, we cannot shake what psychologists call “repetition compulsion” — the impulse to re-enact traumatic experiences.”

An assertion by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that waging war in Syria is crucial to national defence, is bizarre, Kinzer said. Tillerson indicated that the U.S. presence was needed to protect Israel, but there has been no attack across the Syria-Israel border in 40 years, he said.

“Our Middle East policy should be aimed at promoting stability. Instead, we are taking the opposite course: promoting instability in Syria and Iran with the vague hope that we can topple regimes we don’t like and replace them with others that will do our bidding. Instead of looking for ways to extricate ourselves from these conflicts, we reach for reasons to plunge in more deeply.”

Trump was correct to state 15 months ago that the United States “should not be focusing on Syria” because “you’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran”, Kinzer said.

“His administration has now abandoned that common-sense position,” he said. “It is another reflection of how fully his foreign policy iconoclasm has succumbed to the conventional wisdom that traps us in endless war.”