The fight to oust Assad looks increasingly like a failure as the Syrian regime spreads its dominance over Syria with Russian backing. The Syrian government has declared a country-wide ceasefire in light of their advancements and victories. The political and tactical situation is worsening for the U.S.-backed fighters each day. Assad’s regime, with help from Russia, has been on the offensive to reclaim control of the country. The only wild card is ISIL; they’re still there. An international coalition built on mistrust and bad friendships is zeroing in on Raqqa with hopes to eliminate ISIL.

Where we’ve failed

The U.S. policy toward Syria hasn’t made sense.

Turkey is able to shoot a Russian jet out of the sky and still stand up to Russia. The Russian ambassador was killed in Turkey, and yet social media is alight with memes portraying Putin as a badass with a badass military. And nothing happened; Turkey is now dealing with Russia directly. Both parties are getting what they want. They’re both negotiating with a ‘yes’ at the end. Meanwhile, our policy has been focused on avoiding angering Russia. Although a ground war between Russia and the U.S. would be devastating in its loss of life, for the time being, the Russians do not own modern warfare—that’s still us. We have leverage in our military superiority.

U.S. policy has shied away from angering Russia for fear of some kind of retaliation and geopolitical damage. The longer that policy stands, the more Russia gains power. This makes it appear as if we’re incapable of protecting allied nations from Russia, as Putin’s forces master a new generation of warfare in Syria and Ukraine. They’re experimenting without interference. It looks like they tried out new measures on us during this presidential election.

Russia is openly evolving their military strategies and methodologies with some success. They’re using Ukraine and Syria like research laboratories. These zones aren’t covered very well by the press. The mainstream media is obsessed with the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, but they’re all missing other aspects of these conflicts. They’re missing Ukraine entirely.

What will the next round of policy changes look like at the Pentagon? Who will be the under secretary of defense? What has Mattis said about any of this? I don’t have the answers, but I’m actively looking.

To eliminate ISIS and retain some kind of legitimacy, a U.N. security resolution might be required for a ground campaign into Raqqa. It takes an army to fight an army, and ISIS is an army. By the end we’ll get our ducks in a row to launch a ground assault that can devastate ISIS for a final blow. Syria will be returned to being a fully functional government. Like in “Star Wars,” when the emperor surprised Luke Skywalker by telling him, “As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!” In this scenario, I’m not sure who would be Emperor Palpatine, except maybe the Iranian ayatollah.

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