Since December 2017, at least three North Caucasian battalions in Syria have returned to their bases. While details are murky, recent developments and statements indicate that this could be the beginning of a partial Russian drawdown in Syria.
Bombastic statements and indeed occasional, limited military action to support them have prevented war in Lebanon for a decade, even as the region has imploded. How long such “rules of the game” will deter the next war is anyone’s guess.
Washington will need to be prepared for a long and deep involvement in Afghanistan. Until the Trump administration demonstrates such a willingness, it would be well advised not to thoroughly discredit the search for a broadly acceptable political solution.
The NSS misses the mark because of its emphasis on competition and neglect of the possibilities for cooperation. In short, the international liberal world order is relevant, whether or not the Trump Administration agrees.