The violence in Syria has caused millions to flee their homes, with some 5 million people leaving the country since the civil war began in 2011. The top destination for those coming to the US is Michigan where 1,036 will be welcomed.

The war grew out of the unrest of the 2011 Arab Spring and escalated to armed conflict after President Bashar al-Assad's government violently repressed protests which called for reforms. The demands escalated to calls for Assad's removal, a call which the US joined in 2011.

According to conservative Fox News, neoliberal economic reform and drought played a role in the build-up:

It began in March 2011 in the impoverished southern province of Daraa. A drought hitting parts of the country displaced tens of thousands of people from farming areas, putting more pressure on the economy. The city of Homs, which has been a main center of the rebellion, is known as "the mother of the poor" because the cost of living is lower and its population generally less well off. When Damascus saw its worst fighting yet in July, it was largely in the capital's poorer districts that the rebels operated.

The gap between rich and poor across Syria grew in the more than a decade of free market economic policies initiated by the late Hafez Assad and accelerated by his son, Bashar, when he took power in 2000.

Focused on the service sector, the new policy benefited a tiny segment of the country's 22 million people, particularly a clique of regime-linked businessmen and the mostly Sunni merchant class in Aleppo and Damascus, who have largely stuck by Assad. But the policies also triggered steep price increases that reduced many Syrians to poverty, particularly among the country's broader Sunni majority.

The Syrian government and opposition forces including ISIS have committed severe human rights violations and multiple massacres.

ISIS offenses have been the most dramatic, including public beheadings. But some US-allied forces have have also engaged in brutal violations of human rights.

Last year Russia began assisting Assad with a bombing campaign. The war became a proxy war between the US and Russia.

Top US intelligence officials predicted last February that ISIS would attempt US attacks this year. In September, due to ISIS battlefield losses they racheted the threat period back to "the next five years."

In August Stephen Townsend assumed command of US war operations in Iraq, including some 5000 US soldiers plus air power. According to Military Times, his goal is to eliminate ISIS and diffuse the region's Sunni-Shia conflicts, first by beating ISIS in Iraq and then pursuing it into Syria.

But the US has few allies there on the ground. The array makes some military professionals question the entire mission. Russian military aircraft are flying combat missions from Iranian air bases. Turkey has become outwardly distrustful of the US after this summer's failed coup attempt. US military access to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base could be in jeopardy. Targeting ISIS strengthens the regime of Iran-backed Assad, and prolongs the civil war. But weakening ISIS eases pressure on Assad.

US support in Syria has focused on the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, the most reliable US ally. But Turkey vigorously opposes empowering Syrian Kurds, suppression of whom is its top priority.

In August with American support while Vice-President Biden was visiting, Turkey began an incursion into Syria. Turkey's real target is not ISIS but the YPG, which now faces the prospect of betrayal by the US.

For Kurds, it would not be the first betrayal. They are the largest ethnic group in the middle east not to have their independence. Their claim to nationhood has been recognized since the days of Woodrow Wilson. But they were betrayed in 1920 by Britain with the establishment of Iraq, by the Shah and CIA in 1975, and by Iraq in 1988 and 1991.

Government forces in Iraq are preparing an offensive this fall to re-take the northern city of Mosul, the de facto Iraqi ISIS capital lost by the government without a fight in 2014.

What should the US do? The sad answer is it should just leave Iraq and Syria.

It was the US which created the problem. It went into Iraq on the ruse of a search for weapons of mass destruction. It created a power vacuum leading first to civil war, and then to an unstable Iraqi government now in danger of collapsing.

Even so, Obama may achieve his short-term objective. But as at Fallujah, ISIS fighters could fade into the Sunni community only to rise again later.

Only that community itself can defeat ISIS.

The Syrian regime campaign of mass homicide and collective punishment against millions of Syrians continues, even as the US is now cautioning the rebel allies to lower their expectations.

As for the Iraqi army, only cooperation with Iran, which has more influence in Baghdad than Washington, can restore it.

It is the Kurds who are advancing against ISIS on the ground, both in Iraq and Syria even as the Syrian government opposes them. "Let the Kurds do our work," Obama might as well be saying.

These are impossible contradictions, amid other enormous problems facing the US. Killing of Osama bin Laden accomplished nothing. (Well, it did provide a pretext for crazed killings of Pakistani health workers employed in the fake US vaccination program utilized to get bin Laden.)

During the campaign Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for "no-fly zones" in Syria, a position which Joseph Dunford, the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, said would "require us to go to war against Syria and Russia."

As noted in my biography, in 2002-06 I helped to organize eight local rallies opposing the US invasion of Iraq, and a bus trip of activists to DC on the eve of the war. I was part of a small group to meet with Senator Carl Levin in 2005 in efforts to get the US to withdraw.

Unfortunately, our efforts did not succeed. The US is still in Iraq, and today the situation is more dire.

The US should never have gone into Iraq. Now that it is in, it should leave. As I said to Senator Levin in a meeting 11 years ago:

Yes, leaving Iraq will make for chaos there. But staying brings about the same result. US troops are the primary targets of the insurgency.... All of this is summed up in the button [Northern Michigan People for Peace] sold at its rally on September 24 [2004]: "Support our troops: Bring them home now!"