Michael Young makes a familiar and very tired complaint about Syria:
In Syria, a true realist would have exploited the opportunity in 2011 to help get rid of the Assad regime, and in that way undermine Iranian power in the Levant. Obama opted to do nothing, neither arming the rebels with weapons that could have threatened the regime nor using its influence to impose unity on the fragmented Syrian opposition groups and the divided countries bolstering them.
While I’ve said many times that Obama isn’t a realist, it is a little tiresome to read arguments about what “true realists” would do when they are coming from people that obviously loathe anything that might resemble a realist foreign policy. There might be some self-described realists that would agree with what Young says here, but it doesn’t have any particular claim to being the “true” realist position. One can also find self-styled realists that supported the invasion of Iraq, but I doubt that many of them today would offer that as proof of their realism. Indeed, it is a common trope of polemics against realism that they use the author’s preferred policy as the definition of what “true” realists should want. There is no consideration here of what the consequences of “getting rid” of the Syrian regime would be, how much the effort of “getting rid” of the regime would cost the U.S., what other forces in the region might benefit at American and allied expense, or whether it even makes sense to promote regional instability when the region is filled with clients and allies. The “true” realist position Young offers is a one-dimensional parody of what hawkish interventionists of various stripes think realism is supposed to be, when it is little more than their own short-sighted, aggressive preferences dressed up as a strategy.