Only a few years ago the US was confident it had left behind combat operations in the Middle East. It’s back, albeit reluctantly. The US has bolstered its training mission in Iraq and begun air support missions. To the west, in Syria, the US failed to build a rebel force to its satisfaction, despite a half billion dollars spent. The US is also flying air support missions with occasional help from allies.
Policymakers are pondering deeper commitments. The logic may stem more from emotion and Cold War thinking than from carefully assessing who, if anyone, in Iraq or Syria can advance our security and humanitarian goals, and what policies will entangle us with Shia-Sunni conflicts, separatist movements, warlords, and tribal chieftains for years to come.