Should we aggressively seek diplomatic solutions to the fights in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya? Yes. But we will only be successful if our opponents know that they will pay a high price that would be inflicted by a committed coalition that includes the resources and genuine engagement of the leaders of the richest and most powerful nation on Earth alongside regional leaders it clearly trusts and empowers to take the lead on regional issues. And the negotiations will only work if we practice the kind of diplomacy that is not impeded by artificial deadlines and undercut by messages that we need the deal more than the other side does.
So, by all means, let’s acknowledge the complex origins of the current crisis. But let’s not minimize that the failure to be more effective in addressing it can and almost certainly will lead to major losses for American interests in the region. Further and finally, this is a moment that requires great vigilance and should be producing much greater multilateral action by the United States and our allies and within the U.N. Having effectively every country in the region at war is as likely to lead to escalation as it is to solutions. More so. We are not far from seeing the conflicts connect into what could be the biggest conflagration the world has seen since August 1945. And even if that does not happen, prolonged chaos will feed into the spread of extremism in Africa, Asia, and the spread of terrorism in Europe and North America. The stakes could not be higher. And it is clear, even if we recognize America’s limited ability to impact what is happening on the ground, that we have an urgent obligation to try and to try to do so in new ways. Because what we have done for the past six years is just not working and in fact is making the world’s worst situation worse.