In Syria and Nigeria, Confronting the Limits of American Power

In FOREIGN RELATIONS, Military and War On

Syria and Nigeria

The two wars could hardly be more different, as are the American responses. Yet they may still share the fundamental dynamics that make conflict-driven crises so resistant to outside resolution.

In Syria, the United States has sought to either mediate between the warring parties or tip the military balance through force, whether by the Obama administration’s efforts to arm certain rebels or Mr. Trump’s missile strikes. The scope of the United States’ involvement has been extensive and highly visible.

In Nigeria, American action appears more modest.

There, the United States is emphasizing political tools, pressuring the government to improve practices in the affected parts of the country and supporting any reforms. It has helped to coordinate a multinational force from surrounding countries. It is also providing military advisers, intelligence and other forms of military support, which Mr. Trump this week extended in the form of warplane sales, but nothing comparable to action in Syria.

. . . .

Syria and Nigeria, in their own ways, carry this same dilemma. American policy options are aimed at alleviating the suffering and violence that are symptoms of deeper problems. But resolution can come only when the war’s participants once again see peaceful coexistence as worth the compromises and risks — a task harder than any American mission.

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