The parallel example for Syria is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya -- it's Bosnia. Like the Syrian conflict today, Bosnia saw horrific atrocities, unprecedented numbers of refugees and an exorbitant death toll. Like Syria, the crisis in the Balkans was thought unsolvable and intractable. Bosnia's strongest allies worried that action to protect civilians could escalate the conflict regionally and even globally.
Today we confront the fallen world of Syria. Is this House of Cards territory where ambition and revenge battle for supremacy and there is nothing to do but watch the horrors unfold before our eyes? Or do we believe that, despite our own original sins, we Americans can don the white hat and fix things in Syria?
The Obama Doctrine has a narrow focus: keeping other nations from using biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. It argues that we should always seek the support of the world community to enforce this prohibition. But, if they fail to respond, we should act unilaterally, because we are "the anchor of global security."
There are three strategic themes present in the current Washington debate about Syria that are relevant to Iran policy. First, it's always darkest before the dawn when it comes to diplomacy. Second, presidents must push for results and see what their team can deliver. And third, Congress can't be counted on, but it can't be ignored either.