mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
US Policy in Syria: Dither Until It’s Too Late


Fortunately, President Obama’s Syria policy is becoming clearer. Unfortunately, the policy appears to be to dither fecklessly for years as extremists come to dominate the Syrian resistance and vicious fighting radicalizes the country, only to get deeply involved just as our ability to influence the future of Syria has largely disappeared. The WSJ reports on how the thinking is changing in Washington:

The Obama administration has returned to the idea of arming moderate Syrian rebels, current and former officials said, because many officials see it as one of the few steps available to shore up the opposition without drawing the U.S. military into the two-year-old civil war.

Advocates see delivering weapons as the least invasive of the alternatives available to President Barack Obama. One former official called it the “best of the bad options.”

It all looks like a repeat of a troubling pattern seen first in Afghanistan: Overlong dithering followed by the adoption of an overly bookish and complex strategy that had little hope of success in the real world.

[Assad and Obama photo courtesy of Wikimedia]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Alexander Scipio

    Sryia is Syria’s problem. Unless you think something there is worth the life of YOUR son, it’s not worth the life of ANY American’s son.

    But there’s more to it than that.

    Syria is home to Russia’s only Med naval port. Russia actually cares about what happens to their port. If Obama had three working brain cells he’d call Vlad and say – will you please take care of this? They’re your ally. You don’t want us in there. Fine. Great. YOU go fix it so WE don’t have to, OK?

    Obama also could get good Lefty cred from the Dowd’s of the world for this, as well as all the multiculti crazies in his party.

  • Luke Lea

    In a tribal, clan-based society such as Syria it is highly likely that another extended family like the Al-Assad’s will emerge victorious at the end of the day. In which case why not stick with the devil we know? Just asking.

  • Nick M.

    Rather than dither, we could have been laying the groundwork for such support early on, simply by investigating these groups as soon as they formed, picking the most moderate groups to give support too and let them use it for influence. By now, most support will go to the Islamist groups.

    This entire time Iran has been delaying things to keep lines of support to the Hezzies open, and most likely negotiating with some resistance groups to keep the lines of support open when Assad falls (Iran immediately moved to recognize and make nice with the new Libyan govt when it overthrew Gaddafi).

  • Silbergrau Katz

    Suppose we had gone into Syria initially, or perhaps in the near future. What would be the costs? The benefits?

    Syria has a large amount of urban zones plus mountains to the west. It is extremely ethnically fragmented with the groups’ geographical positions forming a fine mosaic pattern. Hezbollah is entrenched in the Bekaa mountains and to the south of neighboring Lebanon, which is also destabilizing as a result of the Syrian conflict. Israel is to the south where tensions in the Golan heights are rising.

    In short, the cost of going into Syria would be much higher than Iraq or Afghanistan given the ethnic and geographical features, and adjoining state boundaries. The benefits are not clear. Going in has a significant potential to spark a broader multi-state MidEast conflict costing many more lives than in the current situation.

    Has any one in the military (active or retired) advocated going in? Key members of relevant Senate or House committees?

  • owenmagoo

    it is a completely unwinnable war. assad has a standing army that has trained forever, and armed themselves accordingly. nothing short of 500k troops can end the conflict. giving munitions is akin to giving someone gasoline for a vehicle they don’t have. without a conceviable end in sight, the war will move towards attrition as it’s sole data point.

    irony alert: aside from the US, which country is best trained and prepared, under battlefield conditions, to fight an urban war? Iraq.

    it will become the flashpoint for sunni v. shiites, and split the middle east, savagely.. as one side gains an advantage, the other side will pursue cross border terrorism, or find sympathetic nationials to do it for them.

    when I see terrorists, organizing to kill terrorists instead of israelis, I pause in my atheism…

    the wheels of justice really do grind slowly.

    • owenmagoo

      think celebrity deathmatch:
      hezbollah v. muslim brotherhood.
      ok, maybe just ‘bum fights’.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service