Is the U.S. Actively Trying to Prolong the Syrian Civil War?

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Why is President Obama escalating U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war? Dan Drezner offers this take, which he’s been murmuring about occasionally for the past year:

[Obama’s goal] is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible. This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished…. at an appalling toll in lives lost.

This policy doesn’t require any course correction… so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources….For the low, low price of aiding and arming the rebels, the U.S. preoccupies all of its adversaries in the Middle East.

….Now let’s be clear: to describe this as “morally questionable” would be an understatement. It’s a policy that makes me very uncomfortable… until one considers the alternatives. What it’s not, however, is a return to liberal hawkery.

In a nutshell, the idea here is that we want both sides to be evenly matched so the fighting continues as long as possible. That will weaken pretty much everyone we hate: Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and the Al Qaeda groups among the rebels. As long as these folks continue killing each other, we’re happy.

Is it a sign of terminal naiveté that I find myself unable to believe that this is conscious Obama administration policy? Or has Drezner simply been watching too much Game of Thrones?

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