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The Syrian Civil War
State Department: “Bringing Peace, Security to Syria” 2015 Accomplishment

2015 saw Iran and Russia both enter the Syrian Civil War, which is still raging fiercely. Yet, citing a U.N. resolution, the U.S. Department of State has hailed “Bringing Peace, Security to Syria” as one of its accomplishments in the last year:

But Syria isn’t at peace, as the the text beneath the headline admits. It’s still very much embroiled in a bloody civil war, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the resolution to that war, whenever it comes, will not primarily be on America’s terms, unless we change something dramatically. Rather, it will be on the terms of our rivals—primarily Iran and Russia.

The President has argued that, as he put it on October 2, “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.” But in a lengthy report in Reuters today, U.S. Administration and intelligence officials paint a much bleaker picture of Syria—where Putin, they say, is winning, and any negotiations will increasingly be conducted on his terms:

Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.[..]

“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. [.  . . ]

Russia’s intervention also appears to have strengthened its hand at the negotiating table. In recent weeks, Washington has engaged more closely with Russia in seeking a settlement to the war and backed off a demand for the immediate departure of Assad as part of any political transition.

Putin’s run of success is something every newspaper reader in the U.S. is aware of. More broadly, even only mildly engaged citizens know there’s neither “peace” nor “security” to be found in Syria. Moreover, if any comes, it will not be due to the U.N. Resolution cited by the State Department, but from major shifts in either the military or political stances of the belligerent parties, including the U.S.

The gap between the State Department’s on-the-record optimism and the realism quoted in Reuters is more than just a “gotcha” moment. Time and again this Administration has mixed optimistic promises that security problems were under control with inaction on the ground. The price has been that as those problems, which really weren’t being attended to, got worse, public trust in the government’s ability to take care of them eroded.

This feeds into a broader crisis of confidence in our elites, a crisis well and truly earned by leaders of both parties. A Pew poll in November indicated that American citizens’ trust in their government is near a post-WWII record low, with only 19 percent expressing confidence that they can “trust the government always or most of the time.” And as the rise of Donald Trump and his populism shows, this is starting to affect our politics.

So instead of a releasing a year-in-review bragging about accomplishments that don’t really exist, perhaps our Administration should consider some resolutions for next year. Resolutions like: Don’t over-promise and under-deliver and don’t respond to bad news with sunny statements of the “who are you gonna trust, me or your lying eyes” variety. And try as far as possible to level with the American people, particularly in situations like Syria where there are no easy, or even good, options.

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  • Beauceron

    It’s starting to get downright Orwellian in the US these days, isn’t it?

    I note that the blurb speaks of “human rights violations and violence carried out by the Assad regime,” but not a mention of IS, or ISIL, or ISIS or, my personal favorite, from the BBC, “the so-called Islamic State.”

    “perhaps our Administration should consider some resolutions for next year. Resolutions like: Don’t over-promise and under-deliver and don’t respond to bad news with sunny statements of the “who are you gonna trust, me or your lying eyes” variety.”

    And we DID get a resolution from Obama: “I’ve got 12 months left to squeeze every ounce of change I can while I’m still in office. And that’s what I intend to do.”

  • sacip

    ACCOMPLISHMENT #2: Iran becoming a “partner for peace” amidst Mid-east turmoil.

    ACCOMPLISHMENT #3: ISIS momentum slows as they re-join Junior Varsity status.

    ACCOMPLISHMENT #4: Putin learns his lesson: Finally begins taking Obama’s phone calls—by-passing Voice-Mail.

  • Jim__L

    Does Putin consider Russia itself to be a “quagmire” he’s stuck in?

    I suspect that the bien pensants of various parts of the Left would be unhappy to be in a situation like Putin’s in Russia, but I don’t think he sees it that way. Similarly, he’s likely to be looking forward to an endgame in Syria that remakes that corner of the world in his own image — which would be a terrible situation for a Leftist (or any Westerner, really) but would seem just fine to the likes of Putin and Assad. (Less so for their people, of course.)

    Only, terrorists will continue to deploy out of these hellholes to do violence against Western targets. (This, incidentally, will push Westerners to adopt more of a Putinesque stance, further remaking the world, in spite of inane pleas that that would mean “the terrorists win”.) Having the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan will give us more Osama bin Ladens. It’s as simple as that.

    Look, I was skeptical as anyone of the Bush administration and the Neocons for their wanting to pursue democracy in these places*. Nowadays I can certainly see how having a strongman friendly to America is better than chaos that allows terrorist strikes against us.

    But the course the Obama administration is taking is a Worst of Both Worlds approach — we’ll have no democracy in these regions, we’ll have strongmen, but they won’t be *our* strongmen, and the terrorist attacks will continue.

    (*Though considering how well the Surge worked and the Syrian migrant
    crisis is hitting Europe, my critical thoughts of Neocon policies now involve more the failure to convince Europe to foot more of the bill. Holding them responsible for Europe’s stupidity isn’t particularly fair, but what does fairness have to do with War? 20/20 hindsight).

  • Anthony

    “Broken resolutions are one of the key features of every American New Year’s celebration, and calling for integrity in an election year may be a particularly good way to ensure that any resolutions that follow will be broken early and often. Every since the ISIS attacks in Paris, however, politics, the struggle for media visibility, and the business side of selling counterterrorism have all combined to turn a real but limited threat from terrorism into a form of panic.”

    New Year’s Resolution on Terrorism: Panic, Politics, and the Prospects for Honesty in 2016 –

    • Beauceron

      Personally, I think there’s a panic about the panic, as it were.

      I live in a high target area, and I do not see people panicking. Quite the contrary.

      • Anthony

        Well, you’re in agreement with Anthony Cordesman.

  • Jim__L

    Have you ever watched someone zooming through his RSS feed, getting “informed” about the “news”?

    This is a misinformation campaign, plain and simple, taking advantage of people who only give the news a cursory glance.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Also taking advantage of a media that won’t call them on their lies

    • Andrew Allison

      So what else is new with this abomination, er administration?

  • ljgude

    Don’t you guys get it? As our next president has said “Perception is everything.” irony/off

  • Josephbleau

    VA officials stole $400,000 and still got bonuses. Obamas folks can’t get microagressive performance reviews.

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