Obama: Syrian conflict 'haunts me'

Obama: Syrian conflict 'haunts me'

President Obama said he’s tormented by the conflict in Syria, but did not say what he would have done differently to end the country’s bloody civil war. 


“The situation in Syria … haunts me constantly,” Obama told historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in an interview published Wednesday in Vanity Fair. 

As his time in office winds down, Obama said the number one question on his mind is “what might I have done differently along the course of the last five, six years” to stop the carnage in Syria. 

“I do ask myself, was there something that we hadn’t thought of?” he added. “Was there some move that is beyond what was being presented to me that maybe a Churchill could have seen, or an Eisenhower might have figured out?”

Critics have called the situation in Syria arguably the biggest stain on his foreign-policy legacy.

The death toll in the country’s five year long civil war is approaching 500,000 and has fueled the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. 

Both Republicans and Democrats have urged Obama to directly intervene in the conflict to oust the country’s leader, Bashar al Assad. And they say the president’s decision to not take military action after Assad crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons in 2012 undermined U.S. credibility abroad. 

Obama has offered limited assistance to Syrian rebel groups and has sent airplanes and special operators to the region to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He’s also increased the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. to 10,000. 

But he has repeatedly ruled out a large-scale military intervention, a no-fly zone or the creation of safe zones to house refugees. 

When asked generally what he would have done differently during his presidency, Obama did not mention any specific changes.

“I know there are problems that I say to myself, ‘If maybe I was a little more gifted I might have been able to solve,’” he said. “But that’s not because I believe what I did was a mistake. It’s that maybe it required the talents of a Lincoln.

“But there aren’t a lot of situations where I look back and I say, The decision I actually made or the course we actually pursued was the wrong course.”