We should stay the hell out of Syria, the "rebels" are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2013
American involvement in the Syrian civil war is stupid for the same reason that previous American actions in the Middle East have been stupid. There is no realistic end game.
Syria will suffer, and her neighbors will suffer, as long as she is at war. The most important strategic and humanitarian objective is to end the war. To obtain peace, some party must grab and hold a monopoly on the use of force in the region.
There is only one option for peace as far as I can see. The rebels are a fractious bunch that don't look capable of holding the country, so write them off. That leaves us with the existing Assad regime as the most likely and capable victors.
"But he's a dictator" you say. But what makes you think anything else can survive in a country where the borders were drawn on the back of a napkin by a British colonel? Democracy requires opposing factions to trust each other so that they won't be screwed over when they lose an election. Perhaps you notice that opposing factions in Syria are currently killing each other. The probability of convincing them to trade bullets for votes is low.
By using military force to aid the Syrian rebels, America prevents a stable equilibrium from being reached. Her intervention prolongs the conflict, and therefore the death and destruction. Short of explicit and thorough genocide, nothing is worse for a population than prolonged war.
The primary role of the United States in the Middle East over the last 15 years is that of a chaos monkey. It overthrows stable governments, installs unstable governments, and then abandons those unstable governments when the home audience gets bored. It prolongs conflicts by handicapping likely winning factions and supporting losing factions that have no realistic chance of pacifying the territory.
The result of all this is trillions of dollars wasted, probably a million deaths attributable to US actions, millions more made refugees, and a power vacuum that was the breeding ground of ISIS. Trump's opposition to this policy was one of the smartest things about his campaign, and his betrayal is disappointing yet unsurprising.
I have no doubt that the individual foreign policy minds in the United States government are far more intelligent and informed than I am. And yet somehow, you plug them into this bureaucracy, and they churn out the same stupidity for decades. Some of the faces change, even a supposedly radical outsider can win an election, and the bipartisan Washington consensus stays the same. This is both impressive and terrifying. If spitting in the face of 99% of the elite and by some miracle electing a man they hate and fear is not enough to change course, then what will it take?