Few thousand Omrans ago, we were told that no matter how many thousands Omrans there will be, America will never put boots on the ground. Now, we have few hundreds of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq trying to fight a threat that didn’t even exist back then. The next American president will need up sending more. Many more, and not only to the Levant.
If the lesson some Americans have learned from the Iraq debacle is not to put American troops on the ground even when certain recently established international norms are at stake, such as those demanding the protection of civilian populations, including thousands of Omrans, from the violence perpetrated by their rogue governments, then, they have learned the wrong lesson, and have done America and the world a great disservice. This is the wrong the red line to impose upon oneself, as it cripples your ability to deal effectively with emerging challenges, allowing for mass slaughter to take place with impunity, for complex proxy wars in which all sorts of internationally banned weapons to become the norm again, and for terrorist groups to become more than JV teams.
America has been policing the world for decades not for altruistic reasons but in pursuit of its own security and interests. Maintaining certain international norms was deemed important for the wellbeing of Americans and not only the peoples directly impacted. For when these norms are allowed to collapse, or so the thinking goes, the potential fallouts will not be restricted to certain regions and peoples.
Nothing has really changed in this regard. In fact, this ethos seems more relevant today, considering our hyper-connectivity, than it has ever been before. Violence is a highly infectious disease. Mass violence in a hyper-globalized world is exponentially more so. For America’s leaders to watch mass murder as it unfolds in Syria and elsewhere and to simply wring their hands in a fake show of despair and helplessness undermines American values, ideals and norms in the minds of domestic audiences ad not only peoples abroad. The likely price will not be restricted to a show of political populism, and will likely assume more violent forms soon.