By Aaron Kliegman Exactly 10 years ago this week, the Syrian people began protesting peacefully against their government. The tyrannical Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, had a choice: Implement reforms, or crush the protests. Assad chose violence. Naturally, the Syrian people fought back. What ensued was the greatest display of brutality so far in the 21st century. The regime, with the help of Russia and Iran, attempted to starve or bomb Syria into submission. In the process, Assad and his partners slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians — most monitors stopped counting exact figures long ago — and displaced millions more. The international community, including the United States, proved impotent in the face of evil. Now Assad, who currently controls some two-thirds of Syria along with the Russians and Iranians, is continuing his onslaught until he dominates every inch of the country. He will remain in power for the foreseeable future. Cruelty and savagery won in Syria. After a decade, Assad’s conquest sends a clear message to dictators around the world: Fight with as much brutality as possible and you will get your way, without having to be held accountable; the West will condemn you with harsh words, but nothing more. This is the key takeaway of the Syrian war. And President Barack Obama, with Joe Biden as his No. 2, is largely to blame. Obama believed Iran, the Syrian regime’s biggest backer, would end any talks with the US over its nuclear program if he adopted a strong policy against Assad. So, he sacrificed the Syrian people in order to have a chance at negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, his main foreign policy goal. In short, the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria was to accommodate Iran, which helped the Assad regime rape, torture, and murder countless Syrians. But Obama knew the Syrian war had to be quelled somehow. He saw a solution: Russia, which he allowed — indeed, welcomed — back to the Middle East for the first time in a major way since the 1970s, when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger kicked the Soviets out of the region. For the next 40 years or so, America was the main power broker in the Middle East, enjoying a prime position to advance its interests. And then Obama threw away four decades of American strategy to avoid making hard decisions in Syria. Like Iran, Russia also helped the Assad regime massacre the Syrian people. Of course, Russia, Iran, and Assad did occasionally kill ISIS terrorists — the only enemies in Syria who Obama was willing to target. In fact, Washington actually forbade the small numbers of the Syrian opposition that it vetted and supported from fighting anyone except ISIS. The moral bankruptcy of this policy can’t be overstated. The US told suffering Syrians they could only receive American support if they ignored the ones imprisoning and killing their families — Assad and Iran. The idiocy of this policy can’t be overstated either. ISIS and al Qaeda were as strong as they were in Syria only because of Assad, who strengthened Islamist terrorist groups to discredit his Syrian opposition and prevent the West from intervening against him. Indeed, Assad helped create and colluded with ISIS. He also released thousands of jihadists from Syria’s prisons and staged bombings blamed on al Qaeda. Without sufficient Western support, it was only a matter of time until the radicals infected the moderate opposition. Plus, Assad and Iran’s wholesale slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Syria’s Sunni Muslims led thousands of them to join extremist groups. Obama’s shameful policy emboldened Assad to wage his war, which caused the largest wave of refugees to hit Europe since World War II. The crisis affected Western politics, playing a role in the populist backlash of both Europe and the United States. But it wasn’t just Europe that was affected: Syrian refugees also fled to and destabilized neighboring countries, including American allies such as Jordan. Obama could have mitigated much of the destruction by intervening early, working with allies to create a no-fly zone and support the Syrian opposition before it became radicalized. To paraphrase the best-selling author Robert D. Kaplan, the world today is a high-velocity place on a taut string. Pull the string in one place, and everywhere else will feel the reverberations from that string. Syria is a case in point. Obama either didn’t recognize this reality or didn’t care. Beyond his “strategy” of trying to get Iran and Russia to replace America’s leadership role, he was so afraid of repeating another 2003 invasion of Iraq that he did nothing. But of course, there’s an ocean of room to maneuver in between those two choices. Presenting any foreign policy decision as either total inaction or full-blown war is a false choice. It’s the kind of thinking that allows enemies to do as they please while Washington is paralyzed in fear. It’s how America loses the world. Syria will forever be a great stain on Obama’s legacy — and on Biden’s, for supporting such a shameful policy. Still, it isn’t too late for Biden to try removing this stain. The Syrian people never stopped fighting for their dignity and freedom, and the Assad regime’s atrocities continue to this day — still with the support of Russia and Iran. Biden has the opportunity as president to use economic sanctions against Assad and help Syrians who refuse to live under Assad’s rule. Of course, Biden’s team today was essentially Obama’s team during the height of the Syrian war. Meaning, don’t hold your breath. Newt hosts monthly virtual events in which he discusses news of the day and why it matters to you and your community. These Newt Live events are your opportunity to communicate directly with Newt. We hope you will join us next time and let Newt answer your questions and provide his insight on the issues that concern you most. JOIN TODAY to be a part of this special event and receive a BONUS GIFT. Click here to join Newt’s Inner Circle.