By Aaron Kliegman\u00a0 Exactly 10 years ago this week,\u00a0the\u00a0Syrian people\u00a0began\u00a0protesting peacefully against their\u00a0government.\u00a0The\u00a0tyrannical\u00a0Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, had a choice: Implement\u00a0reforms, or crush the protests. Assad chose violence.\u00a0\u00a0 Naturally, the Syrian people fought back.\u00a0What ensued\u00a0was the\u00a0greatest display of\u00a0brutality\u00a0so far in the 21st\u00a0century.\u00a0 The regime, with the help of Russia and Iran,\u00a0attempted to starve or bomb Syria into submission. In the process, Assad and his partners slaughtered hundreds of thousands of\u00a0Syrian\u00a0civilians \u2014\u202fmost monitors stopped\u00a0counting\u00a0exact figures\u00a0long ago\u00a0\u2014 and displaced millions more.\u00a0 The international community, including the United States, proved impotent in the face of evil.\u00a0Now\u00a0Assad, who\u00a0currently\u00a0controls some two-thirds of\u00a0Syria\u00a0along with the Russians and Iranians, is continuing his onslaught until he dominates every inch of\u00a0the country. He will remain in power for the foreseeable future. Cruelty and savagery won in Syria.\u00a0 After a decade, Assad\u2019s 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.\u00a0This is the key takeaway of the Syrian war.\u00a0 And\u00a0President Barack Obama, with Joe Biden\u00a0as his No. 2,\u00a0is largely to blame.\u00a0 Obama\u00a0believed\u00a0Iran,\u00a0the Syrian regime\u2019s\u00a0biggest backer, would end\u00a0any talks\u00a0with the US over its nuclear program\u00a0if he adopted a strong policy against Assad. So, he\u00a0sacrificed the Syrian people in order to have a chance at negotiating\u00a0a\u00a0nuclear deal with Iran, his main foreign policy goal.\u00a0 In\u00a0short, the Obama administration\u2019s policy toward Syria was to accommodate Iran, which helped the Assad regime rape, torture, and murder countless Syrians.\u00a0\u00a0 But Obama\u00a0knew the Syrian war had to be quelled somehow. He saw a solution: Russia, which he allowed \u2014 indeed, welcomed \u2014 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.\u00a0\u00a0 For the next\u00a040 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.\u00a0 Like\u00a0Iran, Russia also helped the Assad regime\u00a0massacre the Syrian people.\u00a0\u00a0 Of course, Russia, Iran, and Assad did occasionally kill ISIS terrorists \u2014 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.\u00a0\u00a0 The\u00a0moral bankruptcy of this policy can\u2019t be overstated. The US told suffering Syrians they could only receive American support if they ignored the ones imprisoning and killing their families\u00a0\u2014 Assad and Iran.\u00a0 The idiocy of this policy can\u2019t be overstated either.\u00a0ISIS and al Qaeda were as strong as they were in Syria only because of Assad, who\u00a0strengthened Islamist terrorist groups to discredit his Syrian opposition and prevent the West from intervening against him. Indeed, Assad helped\u00a0create\u00a0and\u00a0colluded\u00a0with ISIS. He also\u00a0released\u00a0thousands of jihadists from Syria\u2019s prisons and\u00a0staged\u00a0bombings blamed on al Qaeda.\u00a0 Without sufficient Western support, it was only a matter of time until the radicals infected the moderate opposition.\u00a0Plus, Assad and Iran\u2019s\u00a0wholesale slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Syria\u2019s Sunni Muslims led thousands of them to join extremist groups.\u00a0 Obama\u2019s 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.\u00a0 But it wasn\u2019t just Europe that was affected: Syrian refugees also fled to\u00a0and destabilized\u00a0neighboring countries, including American allies such as Jordan.\u00a0 Obama could have mitigated much of the destruction by intervening early, working with allies to create a no-fly zone\u00a0and support the Syrian opposition before it became radicalized.\u00a0 To paraphrase the best-selling author Robert D. Kaplan, the world today is a\u00a0high-velocity place on a taut string. Pull the string in one place, and everywhere else will feel the reverberations from that string.\u00a0Syria\u00a0is a case in point.\u00a0 Obama either didn\u2019t recognize this reality or didn\u2019t care.\u00a0Beyond his \u201cstrategy\u201d of trying to get Iran and Russia to replace America\u2019s leadership role, he was so afraid of repeating another 2003 invasion of Iraq that he did nothing. But of course, there\u2019s an ocean of room to maneuver\u00a0in between those two choices.\u00a0Presenting any foreign policy decision as either total inaction or full-blown war is a false choice.\u00a0 It\u2019s\u00a0the kind of thinking that allows enemies to do as they please while Washington is paralyzed in fear. It\u2019s how America loses the world.\u00a0 Syria will forever be a great stain on Obama\u2019s legacy\u00a0\u2014\u202fand on Biden\u2019s, for\u00a0supporting\u00a0such a\u00a0shameful\u00a0policy.\u00a0\u00a0 Still, it isn\u2019t too late for Biden to try removing this\u00a0stain. The Syrian people never stopped fighting for their dignity and freedom, and the Assad regime\u2019s atrocities continue to this day \u2014 still with the support of Russia and Iran. Biden has the opportunity\u00a0as president\u00a0to use economic sanctions against Assad and help Syrians who refuse to live under Assad\u2019s rule.\u00a0 Of course, Biden\u2019s team today was\u00a0essentially\u00a0Obama\u2019s team\u00a0during the height of the Syrian war. Meaning, don\u2019t 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. 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