Small Wars Journal

Areas Freed From Islamic State Will Test U.S. Policy On Limiting Overseas Role

Areas Freed From Islamic State Will Test U.S. Policy On Limiting Overseas Role by Tracy Wilkinson – Los Angeles Times

As U.S.-backed forces succeed in driving Islamic State militants from territory in Iraq and now Syria, the Trump administration has difficult choices — and divided opinions — about how the heavily devastated region can recover in an era when U.S. policy is to take a back-seat role.

The administration has stated unequivocally that it is no longer in the “nation-building business.” But the desire to avoid getting enmeshed in rebuilding civilian institutions conflicts with the need to reconstruct towns that forces backed by the United States fought so hard to liberate and the hope of avoiding conditions that would allow Islamic militants to regain a foothold, as they have done before.

Some of Trump’s advisors are arguing for a longer U.S. presence in Syria, according to a person familiar with the debate who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The goal would be to guarantee deliveries of humanitarian aid and oversee repatriation of the displaced, the start of rebuilding and the setting up of local governments.

Others, however, want to hew more closely to the “no more nation-building” doctrine…

Read on.



a. The fundamental purpose of the United States is (from the Preamble to our Constitution) "to create conditions under which our free and democratic system can live and prosper;" this,

b. At a time when there is competition -- throughout the world -- as to how the states and societies of the world will, henceforth, be organized, ordered and oriented,


There are serious political competitions underway for regional and strategic dominance. These extend beyond military battlefields and are a fought across a variety of domains – political, economic, informational, and cultural. Is the United States finally ready to compete? ...

Yet in virtually every theater of the world, local and regional competitions over ideas, economic systems, and societies affect America’s ability to protect and advance its interests.


Then should we say that this such sacred duty/this such "fundamental purpose of the United States" (see my "a" above) -- in this such competitive rather than cooperative strategic environment (see my "b" above) -- that this such sacred duty and responsibility can best be achieved (or can even be achieved at all) by:

a. Turning areas freed from the Islamic State over to states and societies such as those of Saudia Arabia? This,

b. For the more critical task of political, economic, social and value "development" (i.e., for "nation-building")?

(Under the Trump/Tillerson watch, the U.S./the West only signing up to do such much less important tasks as "restore basic services”/"remove rubble, clearing mines and connecting electricity?")

Herein, is it not reasonable for folks to question whether such "restoring basic services"/"removing rubble, clearing mines and connecting electricity" tasks -- and the turning of parts of Syria (etc., etc., etc.?) over to differently oriented states and societies such as Saudia Arabia (for the more critical requirements of "nation-building"/for political, economic, social and value development) whether these such actions actually:

a. Fulfill our national leaders responsibilities noted in the Preamble to our Constitution above, to wit: "create conditions under which our free and democratic system can live and prosper?" This,

b. In the present "global competition" for power, influence and control arena/the global battlefield of state and societal organizing ideas world, wherein, we currently reside?

(Or, in the alternative, could we honestly say that, in the competitive world within which we reside in today, our President and Secretary of State may actually be shirking their Constitutional duties and responsibilities noted above? This, by [a] only signing up to do "restore basic services" tasks in places like Iraq and Syria, and by [b] turning over the more critical "nation-building" tasks to governments and populations who are [1] diametrically opposed to our way of life, our way of governance, our values, etc., and who are [2] determined to shape the world more along their own political, economic, social and value lines? Talk about potentially "aiding and abetting" the enemy/playing directly into our enemies' hand ???)