Still, the principal product of the president’s Syria policy has been a longer war, with all its associated costs—more casualties, more destruction, more refugees, more terrorism and more spillover. By the fall of 2015, the consequences extended well beyond Syria, including a destabilizing flood of migrants into Europe, a terrorist bomb on a Russian passenger plane and November’s horrific attacks in Paris and Turkish-Russian confrontation. America’s failed policy also created an attractive geopolitical opportunity for Moscow, whose air strikes in Syria simultaneously challenge the United States and further complicate efforts to end the war. As a result, with only one year left in Obama’s second term, it increasingly appears that the president who wanted a legacy of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan will instead leave a legacy of continuing war in the Middle East. It didn’t have to be that way.
Paul J. Saunders is executive director of the Center for the National Interest. He served as a U.S. State Department senior adviser during the George W. Bush administration.
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