Trump needs to show us his cards in the Middle East

The April 6 editorial “A gift to America’s enemies” and David Ignatius’s April 6 op-ed, “On the front line in Syria, it’s ‘an honor for us to be here,’ ” critical of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, ignored sound poker strategy.

The United States has anted some advisers to get in the Syria game to see how the cards fall. Players who are pot committed — who have bet so much they can’t afford to lose and who think they have a winning hand — go all-in. Russia, with its Syrian client and bases at risk, and Turkey, threatened by what it sees as Kurdish terrorist guerrillas seeking to divide not only Syria but also Turkey itself, are all-in, committing their own direct-combat troops to the fight in Syria.

The United States is not pot committed. It has little to lose or gain, but it cannot continue to merely ride its ante. The United States must also go all-in, committing massive military assets to directly fight nuclear-armed frenemy Russia and NATO ally Turkey, or — as the commander in chief has commanded — fold.

James Stephen Kelly, Ellicott City

The April 6 news articleFor Trump and military, varying views on ‘victory’ ” reported that after observing footage showing the CIA holding fire until the target had moved away from a house with family members inside, President Trump asked, “Why did you wait?” It’s a chilling question coming from a president who, as the article noted, boasted on the campaign trail that he would “take out” the families of suspected terrorists. But readers should not make the mistake of imputing such views to those who actually carry out lethal strikes on behalf of the United States. Not only does the Defense Department take compliance with the laws of war seriously, but also Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has prioritized the issue of reducing civilian casualties.

While there is much still to be done to improve on those scores, what the public should be most concerned about is the dangerous lack of transparency regarding the use of lethal force under the Trump administration, particularly by the CIA. Mr. Trump reportedly made radical changes to existing lethal-force policies months ago, but his administration has yet to release or explain to the American people the changes he has made. Congress should not accept such secrecy and should require the Trump administration to provide an unclassified explanation of its new lethal-force rules to the public.

Rita Siemion, Washington

The writer is international legal counsel
at Human Rights First.

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