Ours to reason why
If there's one good thing about the political crisis triggered by Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria it's been to make people realize the U.S. is there. As Seth Harp in The New Yorker noted, it has done everything possible to conceal that fact.
The largest American military base in Syria covers more than five hundred acres, but it can’t be seen from the road... But, past the checkpoint and up a hill, a vast encampment spread out before us. ... The runway was more than a mile long, and sunk below grade, so that planes would seem to disappear as they landed.
In the fall of 2015, when President Barack Obama deployed fifty commandos to advise the Syrian Kurds in their war with the Islamic State, his Administration denied that he was breaking his promise not to put “boots on the ground.”...
Congress has not authorized military action in Syria, nor is there a United Nations mandate permitting the use of force. Nevertheless, over the last three years, the mission has morphed into something more like a conventional ground war. The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia. Four U.S. service members have died in Syria. But, because Operation Inherent Resolve, as the Pentagon calls its mission here, falls under the authority of the Joint Special Operations Command, known as JSOC, basic facts are kept classified, including the cost of the mission, the units involved, where they are located, and the number of wounded, which is believed to be substantial.
Perhaps more people than were ever aware of the combat presence in Syria are outraged the U.S. is leaving and that is a good thing. The lack of awareness was the result of the breakdown of the national security debate and the abdication by Congress of its role in war making. The public is now like a man waking up in a strange city with a 3-week growth of beard with no memory of how he got there.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, the U.S. inherited a whole bunch of shadow wars from the past administrations. "Before he took office in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to end America’s grueling conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his second term, he pledged to take the country off what he called a permanent war footing. ... U.S. military forces have been at war for all eight years of Obama’s tenure, the first two-term president with that distinction. He launched airstrikes or military raids in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan."