By Jonathan McGeachen
I’ve long thought that we’ve been too hard on our leaders over the Syrian crisis. Yes, even Obama! He made some missteps, but it’s a uniquely difficult situation with too many moving parts, too many shifting alliances. And I think Trump will deserve a bit of latitude for his choices here as well. I decided to create this in order to point out the huge number of branching possibilities, the large number of dangers and the small number of relatively good outcomes.
(Edit: I also wanted to say that the first version of this was from Bashar al-Assad’s perspective, to give better insight into how his choices have shaped the conflict for the worst, and history should place responsibility upon him. I decided to ditch it because it was both uninteresting and in even worse taste than the final version.)
Unlike most choose-your-own-adventure type stories, this one includes a sort randomizing element here and there. This is because I am representing possibilities, not certainties. I cannot claim to know what “would” have happened if the US had taken down Assad’s government in 2011, or if ground operations had commenced against ISIS as early as 2014, or if Obama had decided to declare a no-fly zone against the Syrian and Russian aircraft in 2016. But I can give a pretty good guess at some potential outcomes, and I did, decided by such tools as coin flips, rock-paper-scissors, and dice rolls.
For now, it only extends from the Arab Spring up through the present. I may expand it to include the future, especially Kurdistan.
Does it cover every possibility up to the present? Of course not. I’d go insane trying; I nearly did. I had to scrap a great deal of ideas for the sake of parsimony. But I think it covers the most important decision nexus-points of the conflict so far.