The Skeptics

3 Wars the Next President Must Avoid

With all of the process stories, rumors of Republicans bolting from the Trump campaign and ongoing revelations of Donald Trump’s history with women, it’s more than easy for Americans to overlook the most important question when deciding on which candidate would be a better commander-in-chief: would you be comfortable or confident in allowing this person to decide single-handedly whether to send young Americans to war?

The Clinton campaign has tried to make the presidential campaign all about temperament and knowledge of foreign affairs in the hope that uncommitted voters will bolt away from even considering Donald Trump as forty-fifth president of the United States. The Trump campaign, in turn, is trying to turn the narrative around as an indictment on Hillary Clinton’s judgment over the past thirty years—his label of Clinton as the worst secretary of state in America’s history is all about convincing voters that she has made one bad decision after another, without accountability for the consequences those actions may have created.

But temperament and judgment aren’t only the characteristics in a president that Americans should weigh as they deliberate on who to support as President Obama’s successor. Patience, open-mindedness and a capacity to make big, potentially deadly decisions in short order is just as important. If we have learned anything from eight years of President George W. Bush and eight years of President Barack Obama, it's that a commander-in-chief needs to weigh all of the evidence before plunging into a situation that could impact U.S. national security interests in a negative way.

Whether Americans wake up on November 9 to a President-Elect Clinton or Trump, the forty-fifth president will inherit a world that is increasingly complex and unpredictable. There will be no shortage of advisers inside and outside the national security bureaucracy that will attempt to persuade the next commander-in-chief to get more involved in certain conflicts that President Obama failed to quell or have even evolved into a worst shape. Neoconservatives, hibernating in think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, will release policy papers listing which conflicts that Washington must begin to take more seriously and which countries require immediate attention.

These three conflicts will still be around on January 20, 2017. Whoever is elected to the top job, however, ought to think really hard before committing additional U.S. military resources. More isn’t necessarily better.

1. Syria:

Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill are disturbed about the Obama administration’s policy toward the conflict. This isn’t hyperbole, because there really isn’t any other term to describe the sheer anger from some quarters in Washington about how President Obama has opted to deal with the crisis in Syria. Republican senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and Bob Corker have all implored the Obama administration to get off the sidelines and adopt a policy that is much more aggressive towards the Assad regime in order to hold the dictator accountable for crimes against his own people. Bob Corker summarized the resignation among many of his party colleagues during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in the unfortunate situation of sitting in a room full of hostile senators trying to defend the administration’s approach. “I think it's going to be a fascinating walk-through what I believe to be a failed presidency as it relates to foreign policy,” Corker said. “[There is] an unwillingness to roll up sleeves and deal with the tough issues that we have to deal with.” Even Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who has historically been supportive of President Obama’s foreign policy throughout his presidency, has advocated for American leadership to stop an impending humanitarian slaughter of civilians in Aleppo.

No-fly zones, humanitarian corridors, safe-zones for refugees inside Syria and strikes on Assad’s military airfields to ground the Syrian air force have all been included as options that the administration can take to help the opposition regain ground and hold off being weakened militarily. Vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence both mentioned their support for a humanitarian safe zone in Syria that would prevent Syrian and Russian jets from flying and bombing whatever civilian infrastructure there is left. And yet, all of these options could open up a pandora’s box of further violence, dysfunction, and great-power rivalry between Washington and Moscow the likes of which we haven’t seen.