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Conservatives Really Don't Want to Call Syria a War; It's Definitely a War

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The United States military has dropped almost 50,000 bombs on Syria and Iraq over the last two years. Most of that has been against ISIS targets in the desert regions between the two countries, but some, including President Trump’s airport bombings last week, were against the Assad regime itself.

There are also hundreds of American special forces in Syria supporting rebel groups against ISIS, assisting with airstrikes, taking out potential suicide car bombers, and even conducting their own combat raids. The same kind of forces are serving the same kind of functions against ISIS in Iraq as well, although we have almost ten times as many troops still there leftover from the now 14-year old Iraq War.

If what we’re doing in Syria and Iraq is not a war, then nothing is. No, it’s not a large-scale ground war, but as technology improves those become all but unnecessary and anachronistic anyway.

Yet some conservatives seek to distance our operations in Syria from the dreaded W word.

There’s a fundamental misunderstanding they seem to have about the usefulness of a surgical strike, with warning beforehand, intended to damage infrastructure and equipment rather than take human lives. Those kinds of moves are intended to prevent war, not wage it.

I am reminded of the infamous Bush defense of the 2008 bank bailouts:

Lee, who used to write for this site as well and is a friend, argues that she is specifically referring to the recent airport strikes against the Assad regime as not being a war.

In a sense she’s right. But in a more important sense, she’s ignoring the forest for a single tree.

Yes, Trump’s bombing of the Assad regime is a different type of thing from the tens of thousands of other bombings we’ve done in his country. Yes, it was ordered by a different president. But it’s still part of the same war. We’re just fighting on two sides of it now instead of mostly just one.

President Trump has not declared war on Syria, and President Obama never declared war on ISIS, who Syria is also fighting. But make no mistake – we are at war in Syria and have been for several years. Just because we’re not at war with Syria’s government in an ongoing formal way, as we more closely are with ISIS, doesn’t mean war isn’t occurring. We must be honest about these facts if we are to debate the matter properly going forward.


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