The history of the war in Syria
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Here are two urls to help explain the past and present of that conflict.
This is the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, and relieving the crisis has to be the first priority. Assad is a monster who does not deserve to live. But we are going to have to accept him in order to bring an end to the conflict.
The best we can hope for is to restore peace with a viable civil society and open political system in Syria. Then it will do the work of replacing Assad. It's not our job, or NATO's, or Russia's, to pick Syria’s leader.
Russia and Iran want continued strong ties to Syria as their most reliable Arab partner state. We should be OK with letting them have that, though we can extract concessions toward openness in return.
My biggest concern is that the US government doesn’t really care about a free, democratic Syria except as a talking point in domestic politics. Our abject acquiescence with the coup in Egypt, and our continued expensive support of the Sisi dictatorship, doesn’t augur well for US backing for liberty and justice in Syria. Especially as the State of Israel prefers corruptible, oil-dependent Arab dictatorships.
ISIS is a product of the humanitarian crisis, and ending the crisis is going to deprive it of fuel. (The suffering of Syrians is its most effective recruiting point with prospective foreign volunteers.) I feel convinced that remote-control attacks and aerial bombings do less than nothing to weaken ISIS control of its territory. What they do accomplish is the terrorization of civilians, who then crave an end to the violence by any means necessary. If that means rule by Islamist whack-jobs, it's still preferable to being bombed. Just make the bombing stop.
The most pernicious myth in American politics is that we can somehow cleanse the earth with "surgical strikes" against "bad actors," while any "collateral damage" will be forgiven and forgotten.
"The Drone Papers" at The Intercept is essential reading IMO. Not all the information is new. The articles expertly sum up what we know about this new and secretive form of warfare. https://theintercept.com/drone-papers