Helms School of Government


Master of Arts in Public Policy (MAPP)


David P Holt


Syria, US Military, Civil War, Kurds


International Relations | Other Political Science | Political Science | Political Theory


Ever since the 2011 Arab Spring protests in Syria fueled civil war costing nearly half a million lives to date, the US response has been cautious indecision. Syria became a proxy war with Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, the Turks, ISIS, the Kurds, and the local Syrian opposition all competing to support or oust Assad. All but the Kurds and select Syrian resistance groups opposed America. With billions spent on questionable war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama, the American public, and most of the military establishment were leery of direct US involvement in Syria. Apart from supporting the fight against ISIS and half-hearted demands that Bashar al Assad step aside as leader of Syria, neither President Obama nor President Trump have committed US troops to achieving anything more comprehensive. Optimally, the US should encourage multilateral efforts to negotiate Assad’s removal from office with Russia, address Turkish fears of Kurdish independence, or pressure Iran and Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria. Under present circumstances facing US policymakers, such optimizing is illusory. Whatever the limits and possibilities of USFP in the region today, it is clear that America needs a tactical retreat to reconsolidate its power and purpose to fight its Russian and Iranian foes another day when the direct stakes for American interests are higher.