Can Trump Refrain from Repeating His Predecessor's Mistakes in Syria?
The rationale for American action was always there along with the attendant warning that the United States would eventually have to get involved, only the choices then would be far worse and under even more complicated circumstances. At the beginning of the crisis, it was a localized conflict; it has now been transformed into a global war of jihad. While those on the political right argued that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over if Assad was toppled, the West’s collective dithering over what to do about Damascus helped produce “Jihad Central” in Syria, a magnet for international Islamists of a more ostentatious and dangerous ideological stripe.
There were those on the political left who argued that what happened over there didn’t threaten American interests; however, as the refugee crisis and global attacks perpetrated by ISIS and its sympathizers attest, the line regarding the misapplication of Las Vegas rules rings true: What happens in Syria won’t stay in Syria. And for those who warned about the Pottery Barn rules and wanted to avoid regional blame for any involvement, Syria has long been shattered. By clinging to the status quo or working to keep Assad in power the United States appears to be in league with Moscow rather than opposing Russian efforts.
After six years of unbridled Syrian carnage, the crisis isn’t a Republican or Democrat problem; rather, it is a profound moral failing and example of being on the proverbial wrong side of history, par excellence. The United States is in need of a Goldilocks policy—solutions in between the way too hot and way too cold spectrum. As Donald Trump weighs his options, there is the gravitational pull of putting his personal stamp on the manic presidential tradition of overcorrection. Or there is the opportunity to learn the proper lessons from history and from America’s successes and failures abroad. One can only hope he chooses the latter.
Image: Flight operations on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy