But it is not just our conscience that is affected by this gruesome war. America’s interests are also involved because the Syrian conflict in unlikely to remain confined to Syria. As the country unravels, more refugees will flee to neighboring states and more armed groups will gain strength – threatening each of Syria’s neighbors with increased instability….

But it is not just the flow of refugees that endangers Syria’s neighbors and the region. The impending disintegration of the Syrian state means that it will no longer have centralized control of its chemical weapons. If nothing is done beforehand to gain control of these weapons – or destroy them – it is not only Syria’s neighbors that will be in grave danger.

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As to the issue of the central role of jihadists in the rebellion and the U.S. effectively supporting them, Mr. Ross offers a somewhat vague solution: “If we are concerned that Islamists are too powerful and could come to power, the answer is surely not to hope that Assad does not fall too quickly. The answer must be to strengthen the capabilities of those who seek a nonsectarian, inclusive Syria in the future.”

So the dilemma for U.S. policymakers is real and profound. For us, the overriding concern must be whether the world will now perceive America as war weary and not interested in backing up its interests with its unparalleled military power. In modern times such power does not guarantee success and in fact often leads to a quagmire. This is of particular concern now that President Obama has drawn his “red line” with Syria as he had previously with Iran.

Without the fear of U.S. power as a deterrent, disruptions on the international scene will proliferate, threatening American interests. Yet the inherent difficulties in finding a pathway through the morass of competing considerations are manifest. President Obama has an unenviable task and some very tough decisions ahead.

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