Putin and Obama Go Head-to-Head

Why the United States Should Not Accept Russia's Plan in Syria

Obama and Putin at the UN, September 28, 2015. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

“We have no dog in that fight,” U.S. Secretary of State James Baker famously said on the eve of the wars that would tear through former Yugoslavia, ultimately claiming more than a hundred thousand lives and, in Bosnia alone, displacing half the population. Convinced that the United States had no strategic interest in the messy Balkan conflicts, he and his successor quickly assembled arguments to keep the Bush administration and then the Clinton administration from intervening to stop the carnage. Anxieties about “ancient tribal hatreds” and “another Vietnam quagmire” led to a half-hearted policy that didn’t change until nearly four years later when President Bill Clinton grasped the strategic dimensions of the conflict and, with force and diplomacy, brought the war in Bosnia to an end.

Four years into the war in Syria, with more than 200,000 dead, half the country displaced and a refugee crisis in Europe, U.

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