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Hal Brands

The 'American Century' Is Over, and It Died in Syria

The forces of democracy and the great moral gains of the New World Order have given way to great-power conflict and the new autocracy.
Hail the victors.

Hail the victors.

Photographer: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

For anyone who thought that the winding down of the campaign against the Islamic State would cause the Syrian civil war to recede from the headlines, the last few weeks have been a rude awakening. Far from abating, the Syrian conflict is intensifying, with a brutal assault -- reportedly involving chemical weapons -- by the Syrian government on rebel-held areas near Damascus, sharp aerial clashes between Israeli, Iranian and Syrian forces, and a bloody and one-sided confrontation between American airpower and Russian "mercenaries."

These events do more than simply demonstrate that the Syrian conflict remains an appalling humanitarian catastrophe. More significantly, Syria is the nexus for the destabilizing trends that are thrusting the entire global order into crisis.