America Signals Weakness in Syria

March 30, 2023 | Clifford May
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Last week, an Iranian proxy group launched a drone attack on a U.S. military base in Syria, killing a contractor and wounding five soldiers. In response, American warplanes struck military targets affiliated with Tehran—taking care, according to the Pentagon, “to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.” Iran-backed forces attacked two other sites with a U.S. troop presence the next day, wounding another serviceman. Clifford May comments:

This was not an isolated incident. U.S. troops in the region have come under attack from Tehran-backed groups 78 times since the beginning of 2021, according to General Michael “Erik” Kurilla who, as head of Central Command, oversees American troops in the Middle East.

If you’re a proponent of peace through strength, the conclusion you draw is that deterrence has failed, and that re-establishing deterrence must now be a top priority. Those who don’t see the situation this way are calling for retreat from Syria—the response Iran’s theocrats intended to elicit.

To do so would repeat the strategic error President Biden made in 2021 when he surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban and, by extension, to its ally, al-Qaeda. President Obama made the same mistake when he withdrew from Iraq in 2011, giving rise to Islamic State, which went on to conquer 40 percent of Iraq and 33 percent of Syria, establish affiliates in at least eight other countries, spark a refugee crisis, and launch terrorist attacks in the U.S., France, and elsewhere.

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