Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Obama Administration is Deluded About Syria

March 12, 2013 12:36 am 2 comments

Screen shot of Syrian rebels. Photo: Youtube

Predictably, President Obama’s recent decision to provide additional nonlethal military aid to the opposition Syrian National Coalition and its military wing has pleased almost no one. Those who want to provide arms and ammunition to the rebels see Obama’s step as weak and insufficient, while those who oppose any aid to the increasingly dubious opposition see it as another step toward just such lethal assistance.

Despite these divergent criticisms, however, the decision announced by Secretary of State John Kerry, now belatedly converted to opposing Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, is at bottom simply another half-step, a compromise, further evidence of President Obama’s chronic national security indecisiveness. There is no coherent politico-military strategy at work here, only an effort to appease domestic and international critics of a Syria policy badly misguided from the outset.

The central issue for America has never been whether to aid the Syrian opposition or simply sit on the sidelines. The real question is how broader U.S. strategic objectives in the Middle East and elsewhere are affected by the conflict among Syria’s ethnic and religious factions.

Unfortunately, other than pressuring Israel these last four years to surrender to unacceptable Palestinian demands, Obama is bereft of a regional strategy. By withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq and accelerating withdrawal from Afghanistan, he acts as if we were the cause of regional hostility rather than a source of security and stability for our interests and friends.

And regarding Iran, whose support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons constitutes the principal threat to regional peace, Obama has simply been AWOL.

Where does Syria fit in? Assad’s regime is no friend to America or Israel. It relies for its existence on Russian and Iranian assistance, it oppresses its own people and it is a key abettor of international terrorists such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. In short, the regime has nothing to recommend its continued existence.

For two years, however, Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pursued Russia, operating under the delusion that Washington and Moscow had “common interests” in effecting Assad’s peaceful removal from power. Nothing could be further from the Kremlin’s real interests and two years of conflict are largely attributable to this complete misreading of Russia’s intentions.

Moreover, Obama was reluctant to oppose Assad for fear of displeasing Tehran’s ayatollahs, thereby risking disruption of a parallel delusion, namely that Iran could be bargained out of its nuclear weapons program. Even now, the administration continues negotiations that will actually legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, leaving it far more capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons at a time of Tehran’s choosing.

In fact, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we go into crises with the president we have and this one is simply too dangerously naïve and detached to bear serious responsibilities.

Unfortunately, however, Syria’s opposition is also problematical. Even after two years of increasingly mortal conflict, Europe and the United States remain unable to identify opposition politicians, political blocs and fighting units we are confident would govern Syria after Assad according to acceptable standards.

Given the tragedy continuing to unfold in Syria, what should American policy be?

First, our most important objective must be to ensure that Syria’s large stockpiles of chemical weapons and related materials do not fall into the hands of international terrorists and exit the country for use elsewhere. Moreover, reported biological weapons and nuclear programs, likely in conjunction with Iran, must also be kept from the wrong hands. And before any substantial assistance, lethal or nonlethal, is provided to any Syrian opposition elements, Washington must obtain demonstrable, unequivocal commitments that, if they prevail, they agree to the destruction of all aspects of Assad’s programs of weapons of mass destruction.

Second, supporters of the opposition must name names and supporting evidence:

Whom can we trust?

How much Syrian support do they have?

Are they strong enough to stand against al-Qaida or radical Islamicist elements within the opposition?

We must insist on opposition leaders who would not commit indiscriminate bloodbaths against the Christians, Druze and Alawites now supporting Assad.

These preconditions are neither unreasonable nor impossible to fulfill. And they rest simply on the long-standing bedrock of U.S. foreign policy — namely that our objectives should be to protect American national interests and allies, not endlessly going “abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
This article was originally published by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

2 Comments

  • I agree, we help Syria and they will just turn around and kick us in the teeth later! I am tired of us sending our men off to be masacred in wars where their lives are lost over no real benefiting cause. And I completely agree with the author on what he wrote about “misreading of Russia’s intentions,” Russia is out for themselves, not Syria or anyone else!

  • I fully agree with Obama’s strategy of pulling out of Afghanistan, but not because “we’re the source of instability in the region” (it wasn’t any more stable before we went in), but because staying there is contrary to our geo-strategic interests.

    I don’t agree with providing any support to the Syrian rebels. They are run by jihadi organizations and are not our allies. Neither is Assad of course. I have zero trust for either of them.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →