Syria: What have we learned?

200px-RichardNHaassRichard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has never been called a Republican, but he stated that this Administration has so “botched our foreign policy” that we have few choices left in Syria. That is an understatement. Not only has the U.S. “botched” its responsibilities in Syria, Ukraine, Iran, and potentially China, but it has opened Europe to disaster with the influx of refugees. All because of the underlying principle of this administration’s foreign policy – lead from behind. The U.S. can’t expect to have no responsibilities in the world and still benefit financially from being the greatest superpower.

One of the lessons of becoming an adult is that one has to accept tasks and sometimes take actions that are not the happiest for the individual but are for the good of the family. Just as a parent cannot bury his or her head in the sand and still help a child mature, the leader of the U.S. should not withdraw from engagement in the world. When America does that, another power will fill the void and that power will rarely have our interests at heart.

Engagement, however, does not mean waging war throughout the world. Prolonged inaction, however, often does lead to greater military involvement. Syria is a great example. If a No Fly Zone had been initiated several years ago it might have well prevented the blossoming of ISIL, created a safe zone for the Syrians that were being targeted by their own government, and also shrunk the refugees fleeing to Europe. Russia would not then have felt the need – and been given the opportunity – to bomb the opposition to Assad in order to protect its port and military base. Even supporting the international attempt to feed and create housing for refugees in Northern Syria and Turkey would have been very helpful and can be a step that can be taken even now if we work with Turkey.

If the U.S. took the lead and worked with the Arab nations as well as Turkey – who despise Assad and ISIL as much as we do – to present a united front against ISIL, Assad and Russia and Iran we can still have an opportunity to affect the outcome in the region. Russia is backing Shia powers in an area where the Sunnis are the majority and strongly oppose the rise of Iran. America should be exerting its role as the world leader it is meant to be immediately. There are leaders in both parties that should put their heads together and come up with a Syria policy that is reasonable and practical and accomplishes at least one of our goals. We can start with informing Russia that we will do as Turkey and the Arab states have suggested and create a No Fly Zone. Yes, there may be a meeting in the air of Russian and American pilots but our military is a volunteer force that accepts the risk and if we are forever afraid of losing a military life, we will no longer be the great country we have been and will be again.

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