The great game never ends, but the American people are tired of playing. While members of the foreign policy establishment (or experts, as they prefer to be called) continue the work of empire, with its interests, alliances, and intrigues around the globe, the people they are supposedly working for want out. This divergence, exemplified by the debate over Syria, imperils the legitimacy, as well as the efficacy, of American foreign and military policy.
This is why the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis has been presented as a crisis. Losing a skilled, honorable man’s services due to irreconcilable differences with the president would be a blow to any administration, let alone one as chaotic as Trump’s. . .
The debate over our involvement and strategy in Syria is important in itself, but it is also a proxy for the fight over who has the authority to direct American foreign and military policy. Continued American intervention in Syria is being pushed everywhere from National Review to The New York Times. But whatever its merits as policy, it remains unpopular beyond destroying ISIS, which is largely accomplished.
Congress, sensitive to public opinion on this at least, declined to authorize the mission creep the ostensible experts favor. Although Congress has also fecklessly declined to do anything to restrain American involvement in undeclared wars, the Constitution still requires positive authorization for war, which is supposed to be declared and directed by elected officials answerable to the people.
Regardless of the wishes of the people, Congress, and even the current commander-in-chief, the foreign policy establishment has kept playing the great game, presumably on the theory that it is easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission. These officials believe their policies are correct, and the broad strategy of maintaining American influence and protecting American interests justifies involvement in a particular crisis or hot spot. President Trump’s flaws provide them with a ready excuse for ignoring, and even subverting, political leadership. (Read more from “The Syria Controversy Is a Proxy War Over America’s Foreign Policy” HERE)