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Jeb Bush’s Costly and Dangerous Syria Policy

Even if Bush's policy "worked," it would be extraordinarily costly and would gain the U.S. absolutely nothing.

Jeb Bush must have felt left out of the rush to stake out an irresponsibly aggressive position on Syria:

He said he would create a no-fly zone to protect Syrian refugees and allow for training of Syrian rebels, an effort that has faltered badly under President Barack Obama.

“You see the potential now for a unified approach against both Assad and ISIS,” Bush said, referring to the Islamic State militant group. “If we do nothing, we’re basically saying goodbye to the Middle East.”

The most worrisome part of his interview was when he said, “I wouldn’t worry about antagonizing the Russians.” Considering the increased role that Russia has in the conflict in Syria, that should be one of the main things that any would-be president ought to worry about. But Bush is not worried about it, and in fact he is going to go out of his way to antagonize them because he is making the overthrow of Assad a priority:

In an interview with Reuters, Bush said that if elected in 2016 he would seek to build a coalition of European and Arab partners to work for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which he said is key to resolving the festering conflict and a worsening refugee crisis.

It would be difficult to come up with a policy more likely to produce a conflict with Syria’s patrons and allies than this one. Bush’s position isn’t quite as brazenly confrontational as Christie’s or as blithely indifferent to the consequences as Rubio’s, but it is just as irresponsible and disqualifying. Like the others, Bush fails to grasp that toppling Assad won’t make it any easier to resolve the conflict, but will compound most of the major problems that he imagines that regime change will solve. If this became U.S. policy, it would not only risk a major conflict with the Syrian government’s patrons, but it would leave the U.S. on the hook for stabilizing a post-Assad Syria for the next decade. Even if the policy “worked,” it would be extraordinarily costly and would gain the U.S. absolutely nothing.

There has been a fair amount of speculation about which Bush administration Jeb would follow on foreign policy, and this reconfirms that his administration would be a bad copy of his brother’s. It’s as if Bush watched his father conduct foreign policy and concluded that doing the opposite of everything the elder Bush did in dealing with the Soviets must be correct. The good news is that Bush is a bad enough candidate that we’ll probably never have to worry about the implementation of these terrible ideas. The bad news is that this shows just how thoroughly reckless and ideological thinking continues to dominate the GOP on foreign policy over six years after the last Bush left office.