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Trump’s First Big Mistake

The text of a draft executive order on “Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks From Foreign Nationals,” expected to be signed by President Trump, which deals primarily with excluding citizens of selected countries from entering the United States, includes what may be the biggest mistake the newly elected President will ever make:

“Sec. 6. Establishment of Safe Zones to Protect Vulnerable Syrian Populations. Pursuant to the cessation of refugee processing for Syrian nationals, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement.”

As of this writing, such an order has not been signed by the President, but Trump told reporters "I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people.”

This idea is a disaster waiting to happen, and could augur the unraveling of the President’s “America First” foreign policy, which supposedly abjures regime change operations in the Middle East and elsewhere. In 2013 testimony submitted to Congress by then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, the reality of what this would have to mean was outlined:

“Thousands of U.S. ground forces would be needed, even if positioned outside Syria, to support those physically defending the zones. A limited no-fly zone coupled with US ground forces would push the costs over one billion dollars per month.”

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