President Obama was right to limit American involvement in the Syrian civil war on behalf of an insurgency we scarcely have intimate understanding or contact with on the ground…
“In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve… Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective (Mark Lynch, http://wapo.st/1nJnpyf).”
The bottomless cost of intervening in Syria may have stunted America’s ability to put forward the resources and will necessary for the Iraqi theater of combat; to maintain Iraqi sovereignty by arming primarily national military forces but also bolster Peshmerga defensive positions in Kurdistan. The desolation of Syrian Arab Army positions in 2013 would have also opened up depots of heavy weaponry and ammo much earlier to ISIS and other radicals seeking territorial gain in Syria and beyond the borders (much like what happened in North & East Iraq when the armed forces fled their positions).
American realignment vis-à-vis the Syrian government is urgently needed to confront Islamist forces that have regional designs opposing American partners and positions.
The U.S. has a history of sliding between condemnation and cooperation with the Al-Assad Government. This time is no different. Whether the Assad government had a strategic hand in creating the conditions for a cool rapprochement is a non-factor. The moment is here, and ignoring it by not laying the groundwork for a rapprochement would be to the detriment of the U.S. position in Western Asia. Too much treasure has been spent, blood spilled, and political capital expended towards this theater of operations to ignore the crumbling of an order we helped set up.
Seeing diplomatic negotiations through to the end with Iran, bolstering the Iraqi state, and helping end an unpredictable and destabilizing insurgency in Syria will free America to refocus its energies in the Asia-Pacific, Israel/Palestine, and at home where an improving economy and dwindling deficit outlook could create space for much needed legislation regarding tax reform, immigration, and the energy revolution.