Over the weekend, 11 nations in the Friends of Syria alliance met in Doha, Qatar, to discuss the rapidly unraveling situation in Syria, which includes concerns that a power vacuum — Bashar Assad is still in power but weakened — has let increasingly sectarian and radicalized elements into the conflict.
It didn’t have to be this way. Two years ago, many foreign policy experts were arguing that swift and surgical intervention by the United States could quell a number of potentially disastrous developments, while others warned that we should stay totally out of what was ultimately a local conflict.
Two clearheaded foreign policy choices, and yet inexplicably we did neither. We talked a big talk about red lines, and then stood idly by as they were crossed. President Obama shook an indignant finger at the genocide in Syria, invoking the Holocaust and promising, “never again.” That was more than a year and thousands of deaths ago. He said it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, Assad would go, yet we’ve done little to either stanch the bloodshed or bring about a resolution to the conflict.