The Syrian War Enters a New Phase — and We’re in It

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Media Outlet: New York Magazine

Heather Hurlburt wrote for New York magazine about how the U.S. has turned a corner in the Syrian war: 

Until two days ago, the last time an American pilot shot down a foreign military plane the United States was at war with Serbia. Bill Clinton was the president. The U.S. military didn’t have weaponized drones. And Yankees’ rookie star Aaron Judge was a 7-year-old who rooted for the San Francisco Giants.

What happened on Saturday in the air over eastern Syria, when an American F/A-18 brought down a Syrian SU-22 fighter jet, is a very big deal.

Two factors have made situations where U.S. pilots might be forced to take down an enemy aircraft unlikely. First, most of our adversaries in the post-9/11 world have simply lacked an air force. But because U.S. air power is so overwhelming, even opponents who have jets have mostly chosen not to match them up with ours. Iran, for example, uses its Navy to harass smaller American patrol boats in the Persian Gulf — but leaves the planes at home.


Heather Hurlburt is director of the New Models of Policy Change initiative at New America's Political Reform program.