Evan McMullin’s dangerous Syrian policy

Evan McMullin, the Mormon #neverTrump candidate supported by well-known neo-conservatives in Washington, is surging in Utah.  The chances of his winning Utah are quite high.

I am #neverMcMullin, and I wrote this post about why, but I will admit that McMullin taking Utah instead of Trump and Clinton would be mostly a good thing.  I can understand the arguments of my friends who are voting for McMullin at the very least to send a protest vote against the horrible Hillary and the terrible Trump.

Still, I want to point out that McMullin’s signature issue — his policy in Syria — is fatally flawed and dangerous.  McMullin will not be the next president, but Hillary probably will.  When you look at the big picture, McMullin’s Syrian policy is basically HIllary’s Syrian policy.  They are both wrong, and they are risking a war with Russia over a country that is not central to U.S. interests.  I feel compelled to speak out in opposition.


Syria has been ruled by the Assad family — first the father and then the son Bashar al-Assad — since the 1970s.  Make no mistake:  these are bad guys.  Like many of the world’s worst tyrants, they reign with blood and horror in Syria.  But the Assads are a known quantity and are mostly secular leaders.  They have kept a lid on Muslim extremism in Syria and they have mostly tolerated the Christian minority in Syria that has been there since the 1st century AD.

Syria has been allied with the Soviet Union and now Russia since at least the 1960s.  In 1971, the Soviets opened a naval military base in Tartus on the Syrian coastline.  During the Cold War, many Americans saw the alliance with Israel as a counterweight to Soviet aggression.  But the Russians have made it clear lately that they consider Syria essential to their national security, especially because Russia lacks warm water ports for its navy.

The Syrian civil war started in 2011.  There have been literally hundreds of different rebel groups opposed to the Assad government, but there are several main coalitions active now.


The above map shows the primary groups fighting in Syria.  The red is controlled by the Syrian government (backed by Russia).  The gray is controlled by ISIS.  The green is the main opposition group (backed by the U.S.), and it includes both supposedly secular and Islamic rebels.  The white is the former al Nusra organization, an al Qaeda offshoot opposed to Assad (backed by Arab countries and Turkey).  The yellow is primarily controlled by ethnic Kurds (backed by other Kurdish groups and the U.S.).

To sum up:  the United States is backing a lot of the opposition to Assad, and the Russians are backing Assad.  But at the same time, the Russians and the U.S. are supposedly allied in fighting ISIS and al Nusra.  But meanwhile, there are several other groups that are fighting against Assad and against other rebel groups.  It is a mess.

I want to mention that Syria’s Christian minority has created several militias to protect their towns and cities from ISIS and other Islamic groups.  Most Syrian Christians fight on the side of the Syrian government because it is mostly secular and has left them alone over the years, although some Christians also are allied with the Kurds.  The chaos in neighboring Iraq has destroyed most Christian communities, and Syrian Christians want to avoid that fate.

I am sure you have heard about the Syrian refugees.  Why are they refugees?  Because of the fighting between all of the different groups.  There have been atrocities committed by all sides in this war.  If you want to believe that Assad is responsible for most of the atrocities, I am OK with that (even though it is difficult to know for sure given the chaos on the ground), but clearly ISIS and the other groups have committed many atrocities as well. There have been estimates that nearly half of the Syrian population of 18 million has been displaced during the war.

About a year ago, Russia began stepping up its military presence in Syria.  Russian troops — including aircraft and the Russian Navy — were invited to fight alongside the Syrian government.  Russian troops attacked ISIS and many other groups opposing the government.  Due in part to Russian help, the Syrian government has won some recent battles.  The Russians just this week sent a flotilla of ships to Syria, a sign that they are doubling down on their support of Assad.

What does Evan McMullin want to do?

McMullin apparently spent some time in Syria when he worked for the CIA.  So, he has knowledge about the country.   His most detailed remarks about what should be done in Syria are here.

To sum up: 1) he wants the U.S. to support the “moderate” opposition in Syria.  (The Obama administration is already doing that, but he apparently wants a lot more support). 2)He wants a no-fly zone over Syria aimed at the Syrian and Russian air forces to create safe zones for refugees and protection for the supposed moderates.  3)He wants stronger condemnation of the killing of civilians in Syria by the Assad regime.  4)He wants to stop ISIS and al Nusra.

What does Hillary Clinton want to do?  Well, you can read about it here. 1)She wants the United States to step up support for the “moderate” opposition in Syria.   2)She wants a no-fly zone over Syria aimed at the Syrian and Russian air forces to create safe zones for refugees and protection for the supposed moderates.  3)She wants stronger condemnation of the killing of civilians in Syria by the Assad regime.  4)She wants to stop ISIS and al Nusra.

Hmmm.  Notice the similarities?  Just so we are clear, Evan McMullin and Hillary Clinton basically support the same policies in Syria.

What is the alternative?

Let me propose a completely different approach.

1)The United States should meet with the Russians and negotiate an end to U.S. activity in Syria.  Perhaps the United States could get some kind of diplomatic win in exchange regarding Russian activity in the Ukraine and the Crimea.  But the bottom line is this:  Syria is not essential to U.S. national interests.  If the Russians want to get involved in another quagmire (remember Afghanistan?), that is their problem.  With Russian support, the Assad government would eventually destroy the various rebel factions.  The Christian groups would be protected.  ISIS and al Nusra would be weakened or destroyed without any U.S. casualties. The refugee crisis would end.  In fact, the single quickest way to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria is to allow Assad to consolidate control.  Don’t get me wrong:  Assad is a murderer and he would exact revenge, and thousands would die.  But today literally millions are displaced.  They would eventually be allowed to go home and rebuild.

2)The U.S. should not under any circumstances support a no-fly zone in Syria.  A no-fly zone sounds nice and easy, right?  All of those U.S. planes zipping around the skies protecting people.  But a no-fly zone means the U.S. military will keep other planes on the ground.  Which planes?  Syrian and Russian planes.  Yes, you read that right:  McMullin and Hillary both want U.S. planes to fight with Syrian and Russian planes.  World War III, anybody?  Do we really want our air force to get in dog fights with Russian and Syrian planes while we protect rebel groups in Syria?  I certainly don’t.  U.S. planes should protect the United States, not some unknown groups in Syria.

3)There is absolutely no guarantee that the “moderate opposition” in Syria would be any better than Assad.  Many of the “moderates” have ties to Muslim extremist organizations.  Others have longstanding grievances against various other political, religious and cultural groups.  Many of them would massacre the Christian minority in Syria if they were in power, especially because the Christian self-defense groups are on the side of Assad’s government.  A very likely result of the “moderate opposition” winning in Syria would be an even bigger refugee crisis.  Am I the only one who remembers how John McCain went to Syria to support the “moderate opposition,” only to find out later that many of them were allied with ISIS?  You can read more about that horror show here.  To sum up:  there is no such thing as a “moderate opposition” in Syria, and we should stop pretending there is.

4)We should definitely condemn killing and atrocities by all sides and offer to broker peace negotiations.  This should *always* be the U.S. policy in all conflicts — if the antagonists want U.S. help.

No U.S. military involvement in Syria.

The United States already has boots on the ground in Syria.   The U.S. Congress did not declare war, even though the Constitution calls for a declaration of war in such circumstances.  The national debt is approaching $20 trillion and McMullin and Clinton want to risk war with Russia over Syria, a country that is not central to U.S. national interests.  The McMullin-Clinton Syrian policy risks a massacre of the Christian communities in Syria, communities that have lived there since the 1st century AD.  Their policy will not create a better government in Syria and may allow Islamic terrorist groups to take over the country.

It is not hyperbole to say the McMullin-Clinton strategy is dangerous, short-sighted and risks a world war.  Mormons should not support it.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

26 thoughts on “Evan McMullin’s dangerous Syrian policy

  1. We should follow the same policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither one of those countries are important to the US once the response to the terrorist attacks was completed. Which it was years ago. It is just plain not possible to impose western democracy on any countries not ready for it. And not one of these countries is. They are stuck in the 12th century at best in political and societal development.

    We need to get out and stay out to cut our losses.

    My only regret in doing this would be the affect on the Kurds who are the only segment in all three countries that seems to want to move into the modern world. Even Turkey which once seemed to be the only country in the area with a functional democratic society has turned away from that to return to their benighted ways.

    Churchill summed it up almost a 100 years ago:

    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

    The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

    Winston Churchill

  2. I’m still chewing on this, but I wonder: What happens with the Syrio-Iranian alliance–and Israel–if Assad is allowed to crush his enemies? What happens to the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, who seem to be the closest thing the region has to “good guys”? Does McMullin want to see the rise of a Kurdish state? Is he hoping that keeping the Iranians bogged down in Syria will distract resources from their nuclear program? Is the State Department deliberately playing bad-cop to Russia’s good cop, to give Russia leverage over nuclear proliferation in the region? What’s the longer and larger geopolitical game being played here?

  3. JmD good questions. I hope he knows something we don’t. I heard him say something that catches my attention, and that is that first thing we need to have is a comprehensive foreign strategy, which we don’t now. The other is that this terror war is really a battle of ideas which the US is losing badly in the Middle East and we should really do more about if we want to get rid of terrorism. Also that those middle eastern governments have lost all respect for US due to Obama’s position of doing nothing when something needs to be done.

  4. 1. The end of U.S. involvement in Syria would probably result in a Kurdish genocide.
    2. There are no such thing as moderates in an armed civil conflict. Many of these groups are fighting for their lives and would ally with anyone to improve their situation.
    3. Does anyone here really believe that Syrians will return to Syria with a restored Assad regime? A single false accusation is a death penalty. The refugees will remain outside Syria until a stable democratic regime is established. And that is decades, perhaps lifetimes away.

  5. “If the Russians want to get involved in another quagmire (remember Afghanistan?), that is their problem.”

    Remember 9/11?
    When the next one ferments from Syria and results in a nuke in New York, there’s no point in saying I told you so. Other than to lock up the people in our government who were ignoring their most important responsibilities so they could play politics and get relected.

    We need a strong military presence in the middle east for fifty years, or we need to ban all trade and travel from there as long as it’s a cesspool, or we need to accept the eventual nuclear terrorism and military deployment anyway.

    We can be principled constitutionalists with our foreign policy and others will die.

    Your idea of foreign policy is sadly more naïve than Obama’s.

  6. Thank you for this article.
    What a strange choice we face in Utah.
    We are desperate to vote for someone besides Clinton and Trump, so that we can vote for principles.
    Before the Evan surge I figured either the Constitution party or a write in, based on principle because politics aren’t what works.
    Now McMullen surges allowing us (Utah) politically the ability to declare we are not with Trump or Clinton.
    The McMullen option suddenly became a political reality, as far as Utah goes, because this election is already over. We will get Clinton or Trump, our only real choice at this point is to not likewise be blemished by aligning ourselves with either of these individuals.
    But then we look at McMullen, and it’s tempting to turn on the blinders as many have done with Clinton and Trump.
    I would love a third candidate to win Utah. Unfortunately Evan as the vehicle leaves me concerned like Geoff.
    Two large reasons
    A. His foreign policy principles that keeps us entangled. His worldview is a CIA worldview, concerning.
    B. He’s acknowledged that he is running in part to ensure Hillary gets elected over Trump.

    Whether to vote for McMullen is the question.

  7. I agree with Old Man — gotta take care of the Kurds. In fact, I wonder if we might find ourselves (at some point in the not too distant future) helping the Kurds to establish an independent “Kurdistan.”

  8. There really are no choices but the two leading candidates. McMullen’s chances of forcing the election into the House are extraordinarily low… about as low as me making the next Olympic team. The chances he walks into the Oval Office as the leader of the free world… well, let’s just say I don’t have the skills to calculate that probability, but I will say, it is not happening. McMullen is no better than a write-in candidate.

    And what will the repercussions be for Utah backing McMullen? Both major parties would feel betrayed, no friends in Washington, D.C. for the Beehive state. Utah would go down as the nutcase state for a decade or two, essentially taking the heat for the Election of 2016. (Remember the “Blame Florida” movement following the 2000 election?)

    No, come to think of it, McMullen is probably a worse idea than a write-in candidate.

  9. Hopefully the next President will carefully research and consider the consequences. Maybe read a history book and talk to experts that have a clue.

  10. There is never a candidate who will agree with each individual on all their issues.

    It is a given that Evan McMullin will not become the next US president. Therefore it is not particularly germane what his policies are on anything.

    Utah going for a candidate other than Trump or Clinton will not likely alter the outcome of the national election.

    Utah going for a candidate other than Trump or Clinton will send a message that Utah voters cannot be taken for granted. They can be courted and wooed. I’m not persuaded that is a loss for the future.

    All that said, I am not voting in Utah. So I have the liberty of sitting on a hill and voicing an opinion that I won’t have to live with.

  11. Meg, as I say in the post, it is extremely germane what McMullin’s policies on Syria are because they are the same as Hillary’s, and Hillary is likely to be the next president.

    In addition, I am hoping that more Mormons will look carefully at a candidate’s policies before flocking to vote for him.

    That said, I agree with you that Utah voters should not be taken for granted, as I said in the OP.

  12. I remember the quaint old days when a ten-year veteran of the CIA would have zero credibility among the electorate. You know, because they are out there fomenting regime change, toppling governments, and making the rest of the world hate America.

    We’ve come a long way, baby.

  13. Personally, I’ve followed and listened to all his interviews and articles I can possibly find and he still seems to me a better candidate than those two clowns we are given to choose from. He is articulate, knowledgeable on the issues. He knows his constitution. He has personal experience in the Middle East that most of us cannot possibly have to understand the turmoil going on in that part of the world. My vote is not a bet on a horse racing, so I’m not betting to a winner, I just want a solid decent, sane enough person who can make the toughest decisions when the time comes.

  14. McMullin isn’t a perfect candidate but he’s a better candidate than the other two. Further the two main 3rd party groups (Green, Libertarian) have pretty abysmal candidates too. (It’s really hard to have predicted how often Johnson would undermine his own campaign) I was a big skeptic initially of McMullin. However over time I’ve definitely decided to vote for him. Not because I necessarily agree with him, but because he’s closer to my own views of any major group likely to get noticed by the media. If we want the GOP back it’s important to signify to them just how badly they’ve screwed up. And while McMullin isn’t perfect, he’s more of a conservative than any major figure running.

  15. Pingback: Gary Johnson Responds to Evan McMullin’s He’s-Not-a-Real-Libertarian Critique: ‘I’ve Been the Nominee of the Libertarian Party Two Cycles!” | Droolin' Dog dot Net

  16. Pingback: Gary Johnson Responds to Evan McMullin’s He’s-Not-a-Real-Libertarian Critique: ‘I’ve Been the Nominee of the Libertarian Party Two Cycles!” | Michigan Standard

  17. “Kareen on October 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm said: He has personal experience in the Middle East that most of us cannot possibly have to understand the turmoil going on in that part of the world.”

    McMullin’s experience is not as VAST as you make it out to be…I literally lived overseas throughout the Middle East and worked with ALL the alphabet soup agencies daily for over an actual decade. I know the rotation schedules of his agency and know that his M.E. experience with boots on the ground is not as extensive as he leads you to believe.

    Geoff you correct in your assessment about getting involved in Syria and Evan and Hillary’s support. One item to add to your thinking about this is that Syria has been relying heavily on Iran for years and Hizballah’s support in Syria and neighboring Lebanon. Syria and Bashar al Assad began eliminating its citizens from planet Earth during the “Arab Spring” which was never about democracy and freedom. A false narrative pushed by the MSM. I could go on about the whole region and the genesis of ISIS which is just al Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) expanded but don’t want to bore everyone…

    Just FYI, Trump has surrounded himself with some of our top Intelligence officials, including former DIA-head LTG Michael Flynn and others I know well. He will do what is right for our country and protect our secrets. It is so sad to see a few members (and that is what it is, a few) have bought into this negative outlook of Trump which is all false fed to you by a willing media. Trump legitimately beat out 16 other qualified candidates because MANY LDS and other non-members decided he would be best for America to change the course our representatives have put us on.

  18. The good news is that according to the polls it is exceedingly unlikely that Evan McMullin will get the chance to implement his Syria policy.

    The bad news is that according to the same polls someone else will.

  19. The similarities don’t end with their approach to Syria. McMullin is a Globalist. Clinton is a Globalist.

    Evan McMullin is a cipher, a pawn, and a token of niceness. He won the role that even David French declined, and was put forward as a deliberate attempt to split the Mormon Republican vote.

    To vote for McMullin is not a move that keeps one’s conscious clean and sticks it to the icky Trump and Clinton. It is, rather, to be a neocon sucker yet again.


  20. Living inside the beltway, as I do, it turns out my associates have close ties to Evan McMullin. I hear he is an honorable individual.

    Honorable might not float your boat, but a friend pointed out a slim chance of getting McMullin into the presidency rather than the two ostensible front runners.

    First would be sufficiently splitting the electorate such that neither Trump nor Clinton got 270 electoral votes.

    Without a clear majority in the electoral college, the decision on who takes the election would go to each state’s congressional delegation. Each state would determine which candidate got “their” consensus vote. I think the individual who got the plurality of the congressional consensus votes would then become President.

    This has only happened once, back in 1824. The drama would be intense to do this in 2016. And I think it would be the elected congressional delegation from each state, rather than the lame duck delegation. So the consensus could not occur until the elected congress took their seats.

    Anyway, a possible (if far from likely) scenario is that Congress gets to pick the next president, and would potentially feel free to pick based on the best interest of the country. For states that are firmly in either the mainstream Democratic or Republican column, it would seem the delegation would likely go with the vast majority of state voters. But in the close states, there would be less demand for casting a state vote for either of the mainstream candidates. With enough close states and Congressional delegations who know and trust McMullin, there is a possibility that McMullin gets picked by a plurality of Congressional delegations.

    So several mostly-impossible things would have to happen, but at least there is a possible (if intensely unlikely) path for McMullin to credibly become President.

    So I recant my comments that indicated there was no possibility that any of this would matter.

  21. There is no chance — zero, nada, zilch — of McMullin garnering a plurality of Congressional delegation votes for president.

    The blowback from the electorate would be so fierce, so angry. Especially since McMullin will be lucky to get 250,000 votes, and Trump will end up getting 50 million plus, as well as Hillary.

    Is anyone here comfortable with “electing” a man with one half of one percent of the popular vote versus someone who gets 50%? Come on. We’re not a pure democracy (thank goodness) but we’re still a *democratic* republic.

  22. So where is Trump’s plan? If you are trying to convince me to vote for Trump I would like to hear HIM write an intelligent, detailed article referencing his experience and historical experiences of the U.S. like Evan did.

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