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We have little to lose and much to gain in such a reverse in policy vis-à-vis Assad. If we persist on overthrowing him by force, we will perpetuate the disastrous status quo-- an anti-jihadi campaign that the administration has already acknowledged may be morphing into a new open-ended war for years to come -- all the while generating tens of thousands of new jihadis fighting new jihads that we cannot bomb out of existence.
If 150,000 U.S. troops could not stabilize Iraq in the absence of an inclusive and competent government, the limited measures on offer now simply will not suffice. And we should know by now that any Western military intervention with overtly political, rather than clearly humanitarian, objectives runs a real risk of inflaming sectarian sentiment.
It's worth remembering these days -- as President Obama declares that air power will be the primary and perhaps only U.S. effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria -- that the impressive Pentagon videos of missile warheads exploding in the crosshairs obscure the difficulty that air power has in achieving positive, lasting effects on the ground. And that the effects of air campaigns diminish over time -- as the Germans discovered when their intense bombing of London in 1940 failed to break Britain's will. Shock and awe are short-lived.
We do not need to become an "ally" of Iran, but we should recognize that we will need to provide military support to the Iraqi government in the time ahead and, indeed, our special forces are already on the ground there. Iran will do the same. We will therefore have U.S. security activities alongside those of Iran in the Iraqi national battlespace. We should at least discuss the situation, and at a minimum, de-conflict our activities, from special forces advisors to airstrikes.