During the 2008 presidential campaign, no candidate offered a clearer break with George W. Bush's foreign policy than Barack Obama. With America in the middle of two prolonged wars in the Middle East, the Illinois senator pledged to use "soft power" and engagement to pursue American interests rather than military action. Obama's argument was that the standing of the United States had been heavily damaged by Bush's policies of invasion, torture, and indefinite detention, and in order to repair this damage, the United States needed to pursue policies that directly reached out to the residents of the world.
For months, world leaders and the media have underestimated the strength of the insurgency in Syria. Now, with Bashar al Assad’s regime disintegrating, the international community must come to terms with the impending rebel victory.
It is hard to pigeonhole courses of action into "left" or "right" on this issue, and there are no risk-free options, but the United States needs to play a more decisive role in shaping the future of the region—and quickly. The irony is that while the U.S. was worried about avoiding another “Iraq quagmire,” Syria has degraded from a peaceful revolution into an armed rebellion, and now resembles a free-for-all power grab by regional powers and extremists.