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Ultimately, Obama doubts the U.S. can help. "In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, Can we make a difference?" he told the New Republic in January.
Obama's first presidential bid was shaped by his strong opposition to what he called a reckless war in Iraq. Libya aside, says Kenneth Pollack, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution, Obama still lives by that credo. "He's the man elected not to get the U.S. involved in any more wars in the Middle East. His job is to get us out of wars."