On Monday, the Senate voted that U.S. troops should stay in Syria, a country where it has never authorized military force, and Afghanistan. There are “continuing threats from terrorist groups operating in Syria and Afghanistan,” 70 senators affirmed, adding that “the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”
The nonbinding vote was a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who has urged drawdowns over objections from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
And it highlighted Trump’s allies on the issue. Voting against the rebuke were the Tea Party–affiliated Republicans Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz––and the entire field of Democratic presidential hopefuls who serve in the Senate: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
The vote is thus a portent of how the 2020 election may differ from its predecessor. In 2016, Trump defeated a large field of Republicans in part by differentiating himself as an opponent of expensive wars of choice. Like Barack Obama before him, he cast support for the Iraq War as stupid, and promised to redirect money from open-ended occupations of foreign countries toward jobs and infrastructure at home.