It is not that we should get involved in every conflict in the Middle East or elsewhere; the question is and will always be, can the United States, as the global power, afford not to get involved in another conflict to ensure global security and the security of its allies? I believe the answer is quite clear. The United States cannot shirk that responsibility, whether we like it or not.
What I'm saying -- take Syria for example -- is that we should have done something there much earlier. When Assad crossed the so-called red line and used chemical weapons, we should have acted by bombing, for example, some of Assad's air force facilities to maintain our credibility. By doing nothing, the US lost much of its credibility in the eyes of Assad himself, the Russians, the Chinese, and certainly Iran.
Even though we managed to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons, our allies in the Middle East are worried. Do the Saudis have a reason to concern themselves with their national security today? Do the Israelis have similar concerns? Do other Gulf States, or do the Egyptians? These countries' national security depends almost exclusively on America's ability and willingness to come to their aid when it's needed. We have created doubt. America cannot afford to create doubt in the minds of countries who depend on its commitment for their national security. That is the greatest concern I have, and that is going to follow us and be with us for a while.
Having said all that and some, whether you speak of Russia, China, or any other country, they are still nowhere near the United States in terms of influence and an ability to project itself. We have troops in a few dozen countries today; we have by far the largest concentration of military power in the Middle East than any other country in the world.
We have the assets, we know what it takes, but I believe in the last seven or eight years, there was a lack of will to use these assets, both hard and soft power. But America's selective involvement and its choice of assets to be used will remain absolutely critical.
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