Our vital interest in Syria (and Iraq and elsewhere, for that matter) is to prevent its being used as a platform for the launching of attacks against the United States, our allies, and our interests. Moreover, this, it is crucial to remember, is an American problem. It is not one we could responsibly delegate to another country’s “moderate rebels” even if they were numerous enough to need something bigger than a phone booth for their meetings.
That means it is going to take a large commitment of American forces on the ground as well as in the air to achieve our vital interests. But there is no political support for that in our country at the moment. That, no doubt, is why a candidate like Marco Rubio, who is smart enough to see the writing on the wall, seems reluctant to come out and say it.
Even if there were political support for using American force, it would be a losing cause to take up unless and until we finally start seeing Iran the way Iran sees us: as the enemy.
There are not good guys and bad guys in this equation. There are bad guys and other bad guys. And quelling the threat these bad guys collectively pose to the United States is our responsibility — not something we should do out of humanitarian concern for Middle Easterners, or because we are somehow obliged to slake their purported thirst for freedom.