Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Jason J. Campbell

Second Advisor

Neil Katz

Third Advisor

Dustin B. Berna


International relations, Social and Behavioral Sciences


Foreign policy development in the United States is constitutionally granted to the Executive Office. The President has the responsibility for determining when, where, and how soft and/or hard power will be employed in the pursuit of national interests. In the case of U.S. policy regarding Syria, over the course of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, some significant policy transformations have occurred. This qualitative research study examines the evolution of such policies over the course of three different presidential administrations, seeking an answer to the question of whether or not it was likely that U.S. Syrian policy would include a military “boots on the ground” presence against the Al Assad regime. The problem is significant in light of the fact that Syria is increasingly becoming a failed state and continues to experience a violent civil war. This violence is a consequence of both resistance to the Al Assad regime and the presence of ISIS. Using International Relations theory (specifically, Liberalism and Realism), and applying the theory of Coalition Building, it is argued that all three presidents were largely Realists in their Syrian policies. It is further argued that it is highly unlikely that even under a new presidential administration that the US will enhance its military presence in Syria to any great extent. The study contributes to the field of Conflict Resolution by highlighting the complexities of establishing and maintaining an effective foreign policy in a situation that is ridden with conflict, essentially fluid, and in which multiple actors are engaged.