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The Endgame in Syria
The Strategy That Dares Not Speak Its Name
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  • rheddles

    We could have been constructively engaged 3-4 years ago in Syria. Now? Having started down this pike, let’s continue to stay out. Unless the EUros wand to pay and play.

  • Anthony

    “The portrayal of Vladimar Putin as a grand chess master, shrewdly rebuilding the Russian empire through strength and wiles is…Syria is just one of two countries outside the former Soviet Union where Russia has a military base (the other being Vietnam….)….One school of thought contends that Putin is seeking a way back in to the international community…and that his moves in Syria, along with rumors of a conciliatory speech at the upcoming session of the U.N. General Assembly, are meant to be part of this campaign….Or maybe his motives are entirely cynical. One way to find out is to talk with him.” Additional commentary on Russia and Syria given President Obama/Putin upcoming talks: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2015/09/vladimir_putin_sending_troops_to_syria_russia_is_intervenin

  • Fat_Man

    “he [Obama] is resigned to letting whatever hellish horrors erupt in Syria take their course.”

    That is water over the dam.

  • Yaron

    I wonder if anyone can point to a region in the world where the Obama administration has been constructively and effectively engaged on an on-going basis?
    Ukraine? The EU monetary crisis? The EU immigrant crisis? Libya? Israel-Palestine? Syria? The China sea? Global warming? Egypt? Yemen? maybe Afghanistan, the least important conflict in the world, would be the sole exception. Ah yes – and that Nuclear deal with Iran….(given this long list of global fiascoes, one wonders if that whole escapade wasn’t just a way to get the Iran issue off the to-do list and get on with doing nothing globally)

    So this Syrian “avoidance strategy” (while creating the optic of doing something) is nothing unique to this administration and should be viewed in the general context of Obama’s foreign policy.
    I believe this has to do with the deep post-modern philosophy of this administration. Everything is a narrative and there is no absolute right or wrong in international relations. Therefore there is nothing really worth fighting for (doesn’t have to be militarily – even diplomatically would be nice). Power is a dirty word, and conflict should always be approached with a win-win mentality – and when that proves unworkable – drop it and leave. In many ways, this administration is much more “European” in its mind set than American.

    The void created by this approach is of historical ramifications and will shape the international landscape for years to come. One trembles at the thought of where this will lead the world in the next several years. And to think Obama was awarded a Noble Peace prize…it would be funny if the joke was not on all of us.

    • arlowoodenhead

      The answer to your question is no, and you can include the US in the areas affected.

  • johne843

    Putin wants to see Ukraine-related sanctions lifted (this goal is now explicit in their 2016 budget) and is trying to use Syria as the lever. That’s the dynamic that makes Putin want the meeting more. Obama seems resigned to the fact that interventionists will use Syria to stain his legacy, no matter what, so I doubt he’s desperate for a solution unless he thinks it’s realistic and in America’s interests. Putin is unlikely to offer such a solution. Hence Obama’s lack of enthusiasm.

    WRM’s contempt for Obama distorts his ability to give sound analysis. The reality remains that the combination on sanctions, low oil prices, demographic decline, structural challenges and a slowing global economy, are weakening Russia enough that they would prefer to see the sanctions gradually lifted.

    • mark abrams

      Obama cares about Americas interests ? How droll.

  • Andrew Allison

    A remarkably accurate headline given that the administration is taking it you-know-where.

    • Jack Hagan

      Well, to be accurate, the public. Us.

  • gabrielsyme

    Assad didn’t really have to go. He just kept murdering people by the truckload…

    While I agree that Assad has violated the various tenets of the law of war, the contention that the Assad regime is uniquely vicious in this horrible civil war is a bit much. War crimes have been committed by all sides, and it is important, when evaluating the moral status of the various parties, to remember that this is not a war that Assad chose -it was chosen by the various rebel groups, and they bear a substantial moral burden for the carnage, even leaving aside their particular crimes.

    • wbilct

      ‘it was chosen by the various rebel groups” and their foreign patrons!!!

      • arlowoodenhead

        Was there ever a civil war that didn’t have foreign fingers meddling in it?

  • Ishmael Whale

    Obama doesn’t really care what happens in Syria as long as he doesn’t get the blame. He is determined to pull US forces out of the middle east and cut military spending, no matter what happens, short of an attack on the homeland. At this point everyone involved has figured this out. Ironically, Obama agrees with the Bush ambition of promoting democracy in the middle east and, like Bush, can’t accept that they are just not ready for it. The reasons for war in the middle & near east are the same as they have been since the founding of Islam. The only times when there has been peace is when dictatorial powers suppress those motivations. The civilized world has encouraged those dictatorships because the middle and near east matter, now as in the past. The refugee crisis is a stark example of why Obama’s decision to abandon the region will have even more disastrous results than has already befallen the hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced..

    • moderate Guy

      Unfortunately, there is “…short of an attack on the homeland” there. Obama’s juvenile, inept posturing pretty much guarantees an attack on the homeland (which he does not regard as his).

    • wbilct

      “The reasons for war in the middle & near east are the same as they have been since the founding of Islam”. Don’t forget that 6 thousand year old “Jewish problem”.

      “Obama’s decision to abandon the region”, except for having Israel’s back!!!

      • mark abrams

        There is no jewish problem in the middle east. The weak minded in the west have settled upon isreal as a sacrificial offering, telling themselves that if only someone would exterminate those pesky jews than there would be world peace. However the palestinians are not a nationality or a people and no arab state cares about them except as an excuse to their own weak minded populace,

        • wbilct

          “the Palestinians are not a nationality or a people”

          Oh, right, back to that big lie, “a land with no people for a people without a land”.

    • arlowoodenhead

      The refugee crisis is a stark example of why Obama’s decision to meddle in the region was a disastrous idea. Good thing the Egyptians managed to resist his siren call to chaos.

  • hanekhw

    Obama’s??? ‘strategy’ has the signs of a woman’s touch all over it. Valerie Jarrett?

    • ShadrachSmith

      The unnamed problem is that Moslems don’t see sin in harming [murder, rape, torture, slavery]
      humans to advance the faith of their local mosque. As long as that problem remains…

  • Jack Kalpakian

    In the Mead world, JN, AQAM, and ISIS do not murder people by the truckload, only the Assad regime does. In the Mead world, America is a Sunni power, bound by oil, to participate in anti-Shi’ia Jihads. In the Mead world, any end of the war and as a consequence, an end to the violence and the death is a betrayal of US interests. Here is the truth, the US has NO allies on the ground in Syria, regardless of the discourse of the supposedly “liberal” exile community. The US has no obligation to ANY community in the region, let alone Salafist Sunnis. Finally, the US and the KSA are competitors in the oil market as the recent price war waged by the KSA shows. Grow up and wake up, Mr. Mead.

    • mark abrams

      Whereas the US has no allies in the Middle East at all NOW this was not true even 7 years ago, and that explains why we have no allies in or around Syria either, No one has a clue what Obama’s strategy is (if in fact he has one) . So far it seems to consist of stabbing or allies in the back and sucking up to our enemies.

      • Jack Kalpakian

        Bush made similar mistakes, both Bushes. The problem is not partisan. It stems from the ongoing structural Russophobia and Iranophobia in US foreign policy.

  • arlowoodenhead

    Everything Obama touches turns to chaos. Some might say this effect has been going on longer than the current administration. Whatever, it wouldn’t bother me if the US stayed out of meddling for once. We have zero American interests in Syria.

  • Paul A’Barge

    Walter Russell Mead voted for Barack Obama – both times. Never forget.

  • Cjones1

    The future does not bode well for Israel and peace in the region. Where to start? The Iranians have been strengthening their position in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. The breakdown of the Iraq peace can be attributed to increased Iranian influence and presence in Iraq. Instead of withdrawing U.S. forces too quickly from Iraq, the U.S. would have been wiser to seriously punch Iran in the nose and diminish their influence…we had plenty of Shia friends there. We didn’t and it wasn’t long before the Sunni fires ignited leading to the ISIS call to arms. Sure the refuges of former Saddam Hussein fedayeen and officers hadn’t coalesced into a grand army in the Syrian civil war, but their relevance and strength increased as the Iraqi government became an Iranian puppet.
    The Russians assisted the Iranians in defusing opposition to the Iranian nuclear program and the Russians maintained the Assad regime when Assad forces started using WMDs. Now that the U.S. has concluded the treaty with Iran, all systems are go in mobilizing a coalition to eliminate ISIS and any serious Sunni threat from Syria and Iraq. The Iranians gain a swath of territory in their control from Teheran to Beirut. The Russians keep their military assets in Syria, eliminate the American presence in the Levant, and have leverage for decades to come.
    The Israelis have an Iran that has control of the Northern border and intentions to strike as soon as they can with an armed force that has a volatile mix of modern weaponry.
    Is this a failure of U.S. foresight and foreign policy? A major one for sure!

  • Jerome Ogden

    Give the Russians credit. At least they have a realistic, clearly defined objective in Syria: Protect Assad against ISIS, AQ and any other jihadists who want to make Damascus the capital of a new caliphate. Whatever it takes.

    Our objective is delusional: Simultaneously topple Assad, destroy ISIS and crush AQ, making room for a pro-US kumbaya government of national reconciliation formed from all those “moderates” hiding out there in the Syrian desert and our pro-U.S Syrian stooges hiding in Washington.

    Only a liberal hawk like Susan Rice, on a hallucinogenic trip to cloud-cuckoo land, could have come up with that fantasy and called it a strategy.

  • Beauceron

    Meh.
    I don’t see why I should give a damn about Syria while the US and Europe are being destroyed from within by our own politicians.
    Let Russia and Iran dominate the Middle East. Why should I care? Putin is certainly a smarter, more savvy leader than Obama. Not to mention Russia and Iran stick by their allies, unlike the US.
    Best of luck to them.

  • allang

    What a silly and childish article. Isn’t it enough, to see the same talk listed by conspiracy mathematicians in the comment section of every article. Obama is weak… don’t you know, because he refuses to send American soldiers to die in Syria. Imagine, he probably wears a flaming pink-suit for his ritual diner parties at the White House. I mean really, what has Iran gained by deploying the revolutionary guard into Syria. And how gloriously successful have the Hezbollah commando’s preformed in Syria. We’re talking about Syria, here. A backwater Arab dictatorship transformed by a civil war into failed state, without one significant US strategic interest. If there’s one common thing about both the Sunni & the Shia living in Syria. It’s that the hate the United States more then they do the Islamic Caliphate. 2,000 Russian soldiers and 24 Mig’s ain’t gonna do squat in Syria. It will only bring a faster trajectory for death & destruction to a regime that deserves everything it gets…

  • Floridared

    “He just kept murdering people by the truckload, and Obama sat passively by.”

    Is Mead referring to Assad, or some leader of the US-Saudi-Turkey allies – you know, those cheerful freedom loving “rebels” who only yearn to be free to ethnically cleanse their neighborhoods and then move on to the more serious task of waging global jihad and terror against “Crusaders”? Just curious.

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