Seven years ago, when Syrian protesters called for “a day of rage” against Bashar al-Assad, there were few signs that they would have an impact. Three years later, as the protests transformed into a civil war, one that would eventually draw in the region’s powers, it seemed a matter of when, not if, Assad would go the way of his fellow strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt. But on March 15, 2018, which by some accounts marks the seventh anniversary of the start of the conflict, Assad appears no closer to leaving office than he was seven years ago.*
Donald Trump ran for president advocating a different kind of foreign policy. But his appointees are taking a Clintonesque approach to Syria: half-hearted military intervention on behalf of minimal security interests, resulting in great risk with little gain. To avoid escalating involvement in someone else’s war, the president should assert control over his foreign policy.