Opinion: The US is stuck in a sand trap

Recent conflicts in Syria have destabilized the Middle East more than any other event since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The sectarian violence has left Syria struggling to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups while trying to maintain control of areas currently under military occupation. Even worse, the government is using escalations of force against opposing forces, including the use of restricted weapons — such as cluster munitions and chemical weapons — on civilian heavy areas.

Historically, we as a country are reluctant to act in the Middle East as our our foreign influence on the region has often influenced violence. The invasion of Iraq has left several Middle Eastern countries vulnerable to insurgencies, further government corruption in the response to insurgencies, and an Arab Spring, which left Egypt and Libya as failed states. But some Americans claim that “boots on the ground” — or military occupation in the Middle East — is both unfavorable and a risky investment both for the United States and its allies.

However, the limits of intervention appear grey. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the United States has sent weapons and money to rebel groups to help topple the Assad regime, but some were later revealed to be terrorist organizations. In an effort to topple the Assad regime in Syria, we have continued airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq, military training of Iraqi forces and have reportedly continued covert operations in both countries. The European Union and NATO both made commitments to fight terrorism, with some Middle Eastern nations pledging their support of anti-Assad operations. To complicate this further, the Russians have also entered the conflict as supporters of Assad, which has made further U.S. influence difficult without provoking an escalation of conflict.

The current conflict in the Middle East is by a large part the responsibility of the United States’ constant interference in the region. Since the Cold War the U.S. has disrupted elections, triggered coups, and established leaders that were supporters of the U.S. to combat Soviet influence. Because of this, the U.S. has made itself out to be the very thing our founding fathers advised us against: A world police force that has become responsible for maintaining peace and democracy and becoming needlessly entrapped by foreign politics and affairs. It appears that the U.S. must continue its current operations in Syria and Iraq in order to ensure that the proliferation of terrorist organizations, the influence of foreign interests and the autocratic governments of the Middle East are defeated. Otherwise, Iraq-like invasions or stay-behind missions will become the status quo of how we interact with others in the global community.