Donald Trump campaigned on an “America First” foreign policy. But he hasn’t been immune to the vapors of the Swamp. Not even three months after his inauguration, administration officials were praising NATO; affirming commitments to Japan and South Korea; discussing troop surges for Afghanistan; talking about permanently stationing forces in Iraq, increasing aid for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, and effecting regime change in Syria. It was as if Hillary Clinton occupied the President’s body.
Trump’s flip-flop on Syria was particularly shocking. Before the dawn of the Neoconservative Age no sane American would have suggested intervening in the horror that this ancient land has become.
Modern Syria was created during World War I. Under the heavy influence of France, it had little real geopolitical significance. During the Cold War Damascus was allied with the Soviet Union but was no more successful than other Arab states in fighting Israel. After Damascus was defeated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Hafez al-Assad regime concentrated on oppressing the Syrian people and meddling in next-door Lebanon. None of this was of any practical concern to Americans.
When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the government of Bashar al-Assad responded brutally, opposition turned violent, and the country fractured into multiple bloody battlefields. ...