How Obama made Syria's civil war much, much worse

The Obama administration, although it backed away from its half-hearted push for larger intervention, still carried on covert support of the rebels. The CIA and Defense Department armed different groups (who sometimes shot at each other). The Free Syrian Army, the so-called “moderate” rebels on whom so many hopes were pinned, kept disintegrating. Even as the U.S. tried to rebrand it as the “New Syrian Force,” its fighters often defected to al Qaeda, or even ISIS. If they didn’t defect, they would sometimes just lose their new weapons to these more established radical Sunni brands. The United States was allied with the allies of al Qaeda in Syria, and carried out its covert missions under the 2001 AUMF that authorized the U.S. to fight al Qaeda. It’s dizzying.

Along the way, the U.S.’s half-hearted intervention possibly created the worst of all worlds. It encouraged people to invest themselves in a doomed fight much longer than was necessary. It caused rebels to place their hopes in a more broad intervention that was never coming. And it lengthened one of the most disastrous civil wars of the modern era, one whose aftershocks and refugee flows have brought terror to Europe and helped empower a resurgent nationalism that is shaking the political and economic foundations of the European Union.

Lastly, the U.S. having involved itself just enough to look like a loser, ceded initiative to its chief geopolitical rival, Russia. Not only did Obama help make Syria one of his own “losses,” he paved the way to make it look like a Russian win over the United States and radical Sunni Islam. It’s a disaster.