Barack Obama chose to sit out the first two years of the civil war in Syria. When it started, he could have helped out the rebels before al Qaeda co-opted them, but he didn’t. Now, Syria is in a full-scale civil war with the Assad regime as the proxy for Iran and Hezbollah, and the rebels as the proxy for al Qaeda. It is a war with no good guys, but with plenty of victims in the form of ordinary civilians (especially children, the elderly, and helpless women) slaughtered wholesale or turned into refugees.
Bret Stephens, writing at the Wall Street Journal says that a very prevalent mindset (and I have to admit that it’s been my view) is that as long as they’re fighting each other, they’re not attacking Israel, America, or Europe. He thinks this is a dangerous attitude, first, because these regional Shia versus Sunni fights can spread until the entire Arab world is aflame and, second, because these wars radicalize Muslims.
I think Stephens has a point that there is a danger that the entire region goes up in smoke, which could suck in other parts of the world. I don’t agree with the radicalization, though, because that horse has already left the barn. In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war (which was another Sunni versus Shia fight), the Muslim world wasn’t yet so radicalized and the war did change things. Now, though, with 9/11 and ten years of war in the Middle East, not to mention the Arab Spring, the name of the game is “radicalized Muslims through the world.”
Accepting as true that Obama has already screwed up by letting the situation get this far, is there anything that can or should be done now? Or are we fated to sit here helpless and watch the whole world get sucked into the Middle Eastern black hole?