It is time for Washington to realize that, in an age of durable disorder, there is simply no way to impose stability from the outside. Instead, the goal should be to do the least amount of harm both to ourselves and allies while enhancing our national strategic interests—and our understanding of those should be far more limited than it currently is. At times, the United States should not intervene in a civil war, regardless of the human suffering involved. Other times, we might benefit by replicating Chinese and Russian strategies and exacerbate the chaos; playing all sides against the middle. Rarely, though, should American forces deploy to engage in unwinnable humanitarian warfare as they have done on multiple occasions since the end of the Cold War.
“Unless American leaders begin accepting limits on what pure military force can achieve (without becoming doves), and more fundamentally, inherent limitations on their power to conduct war, then a sound strategy will never be crafted in war. Rather, we will continue to “do stuff.” Action will be conflated with accomplishment. And, threats will never be mitigated. Instead, they will simply multiply–even as we increase our expenditures and commitments to the conflict.”