United States policy in Syria insists that President Bashar al-Assad must go. But if the U.S. succeeds and the Assad government is scattered to the wind it raises the question: Who will defend the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria from the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, and all the other heavily armed homicidal maniacs that already control nearly half the country?
Humanity washes ashore, but does anything change? There's only one way for real change to happen: The value of human life must supersede citizenship. Refugees -- people forced by terrible circumstances out of their homes -- shouldn't have their escape routes blocked, either by barbed wire or bureaucratic minutiae, because they have been rendered "stateless."
Republicans risk being caught in a trap of their own devising. The master narrative they're going with -- dishonesty -- is as dangerous for them as they want it to be for Hillary Clinton. They want the 2016 election to turn on the question "Can you trust her?" But Democrats can use jiu-jitsu and make the election turn on the question "Can you trust the people who duped you into Iraq?"
Instead of proposing a liberal alternative, the United States seems to be apologizing. Statements explaining away the actions of ISIS with lack of job opportunities or poor governance can be used to justify genocide. But the strongest indication that America has entered crisis-mode is that it can no longer make its case.
For anyone who served on the ground in Iraq there is something horrifying about the idea of the ideologically blind, strategically ignorant "thinkers" -- Paul Wolfowitz chief among them -- who sent us into a misguided war without a plan to win the peace coming back into office. And yet, Jeb wants to get the gang back together.
The administration's Iraq policy has failed. The U.S. is more entangled in conflict and war; Americans have been killed in retaliation for Washington's intervention; the Islamic State is still advancing; U.S. allies continue to free ride on America; Washington hopes to square a nonexistent circle in Syria.
Recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan are just two examples of a broader failure in foreign policy: the popular neoconservative notion that America must project its hegemony on the rest of the world in an effort to promote American interests, even if those values must be projected by military force.
The ultimate folly is the belief that people are infinitely malleable, that Americans have been anointed to shape and mold humanity against its will, and that there is nothing which cannot be achieved through a few bombing runs, an occasional invasion, and a thorough military occupation. Real leadership means being prepared not to get involved. Real leadership means not being flattered into war by other states proclaiming America's indispensability in solving their problems. Real leadership means allowing, indeed, expecting, others to take control of their own destinies. Foreign policy is a difficult business. In practice the administration has been foolish and feckless, often blundering along even when it has made the right decision, such as not to attack Syria. And its desperate desire to do something risks drawing it in by increments, a serious danger in Iraq today.
American intervention has broken pottery all over the Middle East. Every time the U.S. attempts to repair its last accident, it increases and spreads the mess. It is time for a different approach. One in which Washington does not attempt to micromanage the affairs of other nations. In which Washington practices humility. This would not be isolationism. America, and especially Americans, should be engaged in the world. Economic and cultural ties benefit all. Political cooperation can help meet global problems. Humanitarian needs are varied and manifold. Military action sometimes is necessary, but only rarely -- certainly far less often than presumed by Washington.