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Abstract

In 2011, President Obama proclaimed, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside” (“President Obama”). The question then becomes: why has the United States failed to act upon this declaration and been unsuccessful in achieving regime change in Syria? While there is evidence to suggest regime change is the ultimate goal in Syria, there has been a lack of action taken to facilitate the deposition of Assad. In this paper, there will be an emphasis on the policies and rhetoric that indicate the desire to catalyze a shift in governmental power through the disposal of the Assad regime. This approach will conceptualize the attempt to prove the discrepancies between the ideals of the United States and the actions taken by the nation. A historical approach will be employed to highlight the main policies, statements, and events which shaped the United States’ promotion of regime change in Syria. This approach will be organized by presidential terms, beginning with Obama’s first term, moving to his second term, and progressing towards Trump’s first term and the current state of affairs.

This paper will consequently employ theories of foreign policy, to explain the Syrian situation from a theoretical standpoint. The theories of realism and liberalism will be employed while the ideals of both theoretical frameworks will be traced through foreign policy decisions, policies, and actions. Ultimately, these foreign policy theories will be rejected as the determining factor in the United States’ failure to pursue Syrian regime change. This paper will argue that public opinion is the most significant factor which has shaped United States’ foreign policy in Syria. Ultimately, the overwhelming public opposition to sustained military intervention will be isolated as the determining factor and analyzed in terms of affecting the foreign policy decisions of both President Obama and Trump. Numerous public opinion polls will be presented to conceptualize this phenomenon and explain the importance of the factor in the development of foreign policy. It will then be clear that public opinion is the answer to the question of United States inaction involving pursuing regime change in Syria.

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