A Precipitous American Retreat from the Middle East Will Only Lead to More War

While defenders of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan claim that doing so is the only alternative to fighting “endless wars,” Paul Wolfowitz argues that retreat is in fact a recipe for the opposite—as evidenced by a recent Defense Department report that Islamic State (IS) is already regrouping in areas of Syria abandoned by American forces. Yet the alternatives need not require large investments of American blood and treasure:

Abandoning allies who have advanced American interests while fighting courageously for their own is not a formula for avoiding another large-scale United States military engagement in the Middle East, but rather for ending up in another one. Next time, however, will be without the local allies we need.

The way to protect our critical interests in the Middle East while minimizing costs and risks for the United States is by supporting people who, while fighting for their own interests, also protect America’s.

The eight blood-soaked years that the Assad regime has remained in power may have cost more than half a million Syrian lives and have created hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people. That humanitarian disaster also produced the strategic vacuum from which Islamic State emerged in northern Syria to invade and destabilize Iraq, forcing then-President Obama to return the troops he had withdrawn just a few years earlier. Now with President Trump building on that earlier failure, Russia and Iran may gain effective control of Syria.

Donald Trump [now has] an opportunity not to undo his decision—he has unfortunately already created a new and much more complicated situation—but to revise it and continue some support for our Kurdish and Arab allies so that they can achieve a reasonable negotiated settlement. The goal of a revised operation should be made clear: it is not to seize Syria’s oil, as President Trump has suggested, but rather to keep that strategic asset out of the hands of our enemies.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Donald Trump, Islamic State, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7