The fact is that there was no secular, moderate force worthy of the name operating inside Syria; virtually the entire anti-Assad effort is dominated by Islamist extremists who, if Assad was overthrown, would probably replace a secular dictator with something far worse. The Obama policy of regime change in Syria, like the Bush policy in Iraq, has done little more than unleash forces which the U.S. was unable to control, costing American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and the blood of American military personnel who lost their lives in its implementation.
President Trump’s decision to terminate Timber Sycamore, and with it the Obama-era policy of “Assad must go,” when seen in this context, is the clearest expression to date of his desire to rein in the unsuccessful policies of the past. The president’s decision liberates the United States, which can now proceed in its fight against ISIS and Islamic extremism unencumbered by policies that do little to further American interests while empowering enemies. By working with Russia to focus on the defeat of ISIS, President Trump is positioning the United States to play an important role in helping shape a political solution to the Syrian problem that will bring peace to the people of Syria and the region. Achieving such a solution will not be easy, nor is the outcome guaranteed. Timber Sycamore, however, was nothing more than an impediment in this regard, and President Trump was wise in shutting it down.