America’s Syria policy has been a series of disasters, errors and own goals, humiliating President Obama, devastating his credibility across the region, reducing chances for both a good deal with Iran and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Oh, and it’s also paved the way for mass death and serial atrocities in Syria.Mostly, the MSM has tried to avert its eyes from the succession of blunders and costly missteps. The WSJ has challenged this approach with a damning account of the administration’s Syria strategy from its beginnings in 2011 to today, and the picture it paints is accurate—which is to say, ugly. The administration was one step behind its opponents every step of the way, and missed no opportunity to misjudge its opponents, anger its allies, or waffle on a policy while facts on the ground passed it by. The embarrassing public reversals on Assad’s removal and “red lines” over chemical weapons were bad enough, but mistakes were made behind the scenes too:
Mr. Obama had balked at providing arms to the opposition in 2012. But in April, he secretly authorized a small CIA program to provide weapons to hand-picked moderate fighters in limited quantities, a strategy designed to reduce the risk that they could fall into the hands of Islamists. […]The program, at the time, was meant to turn out between 50 and 100 new fighters a month. Overwhelmingly outgunned, they would be up against thousands of Hezbollah fighters in Syria, and thousands more trained and equipped by Iran and al Qaeda.Within the CIA, many analysts, including Mr. Morell, agreed the odds were bad, given the mismatch in commitments, officials said. Mr. Nasrallah had gone all in; the same couldn’t be said of the Americans, these officials said.
This is only one small piece of the puzzle: the piece deserves a full read. Overall, it reveals an administration whose reluctance to commit one way or another—either to stay out or to aid the rebels—has eroded the ability of the U.S. to have much of an impact on the conflict going forward. Now both sides are digging in for a war that could drag on for decades, empower a new generation of global jihadis, and threaten the security and well being of Europeans as well as Middle Easterners.It’s a good thing we have a Democrat in the White House; otherwise the entire MSM and foreign policy establishment would be howling in rage and frustration over the serial policy failures and intelligence mistakes detailed in this account of the Obama administration’s record in Syria. Also, the President should thank his stars that Samantha Power is working for him as otherwise he’d be getting lambasted for fecklessness in the face of mass murder.
The sharpest criticism ex-officials level at their former colleagues in the Obama White House is that foreign policy in this administration is more about short term political interest and perception management than about substantive and serious pursuit of American national interests. That’s a little unfair; all presidents need to think about maintaining a base of support for their policies and the technocratic dream that we could have a ‘politics free foreign policy’ ignores the enduring realities of democratic governance. Nevertheless, the more closely one inspects America’s record in Syria, the more costly and the more feckless our policy appears.