Today’s welcome respite to the Syrian conflict represents a rare moment of calm, but the Obama Administration’s approach to the ongoing conflict has been one of the most muddled aspects of its foreign policy to date. Last March, President Obama controversially bypassed Congress to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds, where America had few, if any, strategic interests. Yet in Syria, which is more geopolitically important, and where the humanitarian situation is even worse, the President has mostly refrained from action.At The American Interest online, Adam Garfinkle observes that the escalating violence hasn’t moved the Administration any closer to a coherent policy approach:
What has not changed, at least in public at this point, is the attitude of the Obama Administration—and that is not hopeful news. The State Department made all the right noises about yesterday’s events, but Administration policy where it matters has changed not one whit. It is becoming ever more difficult, however, for the Administration to pretend that Annan’s diplomacy, or any other kind of diplomacy, is going to make this problem go away. The Administration remains in a logically impossible and an increasingly embarrassing situation, having demanded that Assad step down but then having subordinated its policy to Russian diplomacy, even though, as everyone knows, Russia is Assad’s main supporter in this crisis. The Administration appears to be practicing a form of policy Micawberism, so much beloved of those in all walks of life who don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re “waiting for something to turn up” to spare them any difficult decision that might impinge on the President’s political calendar. It’s not going to happen: Nothing is going to turn up for a while, except a lot more dirt in the opening of many more fresh graves.
As much as Obama doesn’t want this war to affect his reelection prospects, the issue won’t quietly disappear.Adam also points to some important news the politicos and journalists are missing. After nearly a year of fence-sitting, the Sunni middle class may be moving toward the opposition:
It took the New York Times 14 paragraphs to get to it (the Washington Post did not report these facts at all), but it eventually related that ten Syrian security personnel were killed and 11 wounded trying to quell a demonstration in Aleppo. A few demonstrators were killed, too, but only a few. The Times remarked in passing that Aleppo had been until yesterday a fairly quiet place compared to Dara’a, Homs, Hama and even Damascus.At paragraph 14 (or not at all), it is not clear that the American press appreciates fully the significance of this news. Aleppo is a Sunni merchant town, above all else. Those who understand the country have been waiting for the breakpoint at which the Sunni middle-class finally gets off the fence and joins the opposition. That moment may be at hand, and if it is, the recent optic that the regime is winning will be reversed in due course, possibly very quickly.
It’s still too early, and reports still too varied, to make confident predictions about the course of the war, but if this reading is accurate, Aleppo could be a game changer.Read the whole thing.