U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his intention to remove all U.S. troops from Syria.
If that happens it will fulfill part of the demand that World BEYOND War has been making since Trump promised nine months ago to get "out" of Syria "like very soon."
Removing troops from the ground -- all of them, not just some -- and ceasing base construction, if it happens, will be a start.
Even more important is ceasing to bomb from above.
In addition, alternative approaches need to be launched, including unarmed peaceworkers, a weapons ban for the region, a disarmament program, major actual humanitarian aid (and an end to sanctions that harm ordinary people), and diplomacy.
The fact that politicians and the parties they belong to generally do more harm than good is simply no reason not to encourage the good and discourage the bad.
Opposition to this withdrawal of troops is coming from a variety of disturbing quarters for a range of unconvincing reasons.
"If Trump does it, it's wrong." This is simply nonsense. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Trump hasn't done this yet -- we need to raise a public demand for actual follow-through.
"If Putin approves it, it's wrong." This is a recipe for ongoing and escalating hostility between two governments sitting on huge supplies of nuclear weapons. Russia has been scaling back both its presence in Syria and its overall military spending. The United States has been dramatically increasing its military spending and its NATO presence on Russia's border, while tearing up disarmament treaties, shipping weapons to Ukraine, abandoning a Russia-backed agreement with Iran, and opposing Russian energy deals. Doing something for once that Russia agrees with is a mark in favor of the troop withdrawal.
"The U.S. military should decide, not the President." That's a recipe for a military government lacking representative or democratic control, diametrically opposed to the values the U.S. government often claims to support. In fact, Congress should decide, as it may finally do on Yemen. And, if we're going to be legal about this, war is actually a crime under the UN Charter (with limited exceptions not met by any current wars) and under the Kellogg-Briand Pact, meaning that neither Congress, nor the President, nor the military can legally choose to launch or continue a war.
"Trump is doing this to distract from something else or for various other bizarre reasons." Nobody knows why Trump does anything. Trump probably doesn't know why he does anything. Nobody knows what diplomatic and business deals, if any, are involved. What we know is that massive violence never gets us closer to a solution and cannot be justified.
"Trump is declaring victory while admitting there's no victory; are you going to let him get away with that?" The incoherence of his remarks is available equally to all to observe. If he would end each war and declare victory, and even have a celebratory weapons-marketing parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, the lives spared would more than outweigh the harm.
"It will make matters worse for those on the ground in that part of Syria." Things have been getting worse for years all over Syria, without that ever being understood as a reason to halt the militarism. Things may get worse during the process of ending the violence. But major steps can be taken to help avoid that. Such steps, again, include unarmed peaceworkers, a weapons ban for the region, a disarmament program, major actual humanitarian aid, and diplomacy. Sanctions now imposed on Syria generally target ordinary citizens much more than the government. They have that in common with the bombs, and they must be ended.
Here's more information on alternatives to violence.
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