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Even the NYT concludes:
Obama’s Syria Play a Failure
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  • Ellen

    Well, not so fast. Obama’s policy has been a failure and will continue to be a failure. He has an uncanny knack of supporting the losing and discredited side in almost every conflict in the Middle East. In fact, it’s worse than that. When he throws his weight behind one of the players, that player then becomes overconfident and overplays his hand, and ends up in ruins. This is what happened to Erdogan, Abbas, the Iranians, and now perhaps to Putin.

    The Islamist rebels appear to be on their way, at least temporarily, to victory in the fateful battle of Aleppo. If the pro-Assad forces with all the power at their disposal, lose Aleppo to a motley assortment of jihadists, it will probably mean the end of the Assad dictatorship and the total humiliation of Hezbollah, the Iranians, and Putin, who is providing Russian air force support. Let’s see if the Islamists can keep Aleppo and actually govern it. If they can, Putin will have failed very publicly and disastrously in Syria, just like Obama.

    If the Sunni rebels win this battle, it will be an earthquake in the MidEast, comparable to the 6-day war. If they lose it ultimately, then they are probably finished as a serious military force. A lot of reputations are hanging on the ultimate outcome of this battle.

    • Kev

      The rebel offensive comes from desperation. If they lose, it will be the end of their movement. If they win, they will live to fight another day.

    • Dima

      Absolutely agree Ellen. AI’s go to reaction is to condemn current administration at every opportunity, but let’s look at the facts:
      – The new unified rebel coalition just won significant territory in Aleppo & broke the siege
      – Russian air power has evidently failed to stop this
      – Rebels are now regrouping for next assault & threaten to in turn encircle Assad’s forces
      – Even if Assad’s forces were to ultimately conquer all of destroyed Aleppo, they haven’t the manpower to hold onto it

      The trap for Putin is working. If he pulls out now & Aleppo falls to the rebels, Russia is humiliated. If he stays he’ll bleed treasure (& occasionally blood) as long as the Gulf-backed rebels are able to get new men & arms – i.e. indefinitely. If he escalates to try & win decisively, expect to see SAM’s in the hands of rebels soon afterwards. It is Putin that has backed the wrong side this time. Assad’s forces are exhausted & cannot ‘win’ – Russian assistance has merely delayed the inevitable.

      The now ex-Al Qaeda Jihadis-formerly-known-as-Nusra (currently reckoned to be the most powerful force in Syria) have build strong local Sunni support, having mostly eschewed foreign fighters – unlike ISIL. They have also vowed to focus on Syria alone & not harm Western interests. This may just be a PR exercise, but it is clearly designed to give the US & others the choice of labelling them ‘moderates’ so as to avoid US/Russian JIG targeting. Like it or not, the new grand rebel coalition currently looks like the nearest thing to a capable governing force for Aleppo.

      • Ellen

        I agree with you. After 5.5 years, the Syrian Sunnis have finally showed a glimmer (right now, just a glimmer) of competence to match their bravery. They are doing what the Israelis always did when faced with blustering, incompetent Arab bullies. They are capitalizing on their strengths which are (as you point out): widespread demographic depth and popular support even in the part of Syria controlled by the government. The exhaustion of the Syrian army and unwillingness of large numbers of Shiite mercenaries to prop it up. The limited willingness of Putin to enmesh his troops in another Afghanistan-type conflict.

        Al Nusra is now led by someone who has not only the courage of a religious fanatic, but the pragmatism of a man who wants to be a leader and can appreciate the importance of good PR to get external help. From all the Sunnis, they have found one man of that type – after 5.5 years.

        It will be very difficult for America to support the Putin-Assad-Soleimani bloodthirsty triangle, in the face of such a rebel leadership. Let’s see if they can hold together long enough to trounce what remains of Assad’s withering support, and can rule Aleppo. Big ifs, but if they can, it will be an earthquake.

  • rheddles

    It may be a failure in your opinion, but not in Valerie Jarrett’s. Iran has more power and is better situated to fight the Sunni. What could be better?

    • JR

      But note how even here, Obama is backing the weaker horse. Sunnis are more numerous and in general are better fighters.

      • rheddles

        Backing the weaker horse helps assure Amerikkka’s defeat. Isn’t that Obama’s top priority?

      • Tom

        I’m not so sure that the Sunnis are better fighters. They’re definitely more numerous, but in that case the continued survival of Shi’ism would indicate that Shi’ites are better fighters.

        • CaliforniaStark

          The Alawites have a good reputation as fighters, and are the backbone of the Syrian army. They also know that if the Sunni forces win, they will face genocide.

  • WigWag

    As long as we’re talking about what the New York Times concludes, it’s worth taking a look at an article in today’s New York Times about “Think Tanks.” The Times concludes that there is a substantial risk that the conclusions reached by the fellows, associates, scholars and other minions associated with these ethically questionable institutions are often self-interested, or reflect the interests of the donors who fund the organization.

    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these institutions is that they serve as landing pads for former government policy makers who lose their jobs when the political party they belong to loses power. These former government officials make a fine living by doing nothing but bloviating while they wait for a new President from the Party they belong to to get elected and hopefully hire them.

    A significant number of American Interest writers hold positions and Think Tanks. To their credit, this is usually disclosed in a blurb at the end of their articles. What’s not disclosed is the names of the donors (mostly millionaires and billionaires) who are paying their salaries or funding their organization’s. Nor are the names of the donors paying for their travel disclosed. Given the fact that these think-tankers often function as semi-journalists, including at the American Interest, this is troublesome. It would be considered highly unethical for a reporter for the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal to write an article on a place he visited on a donor’s dime without revealing it. In the new media, this happens all the time.

    Often these former government employees bide their time ensconced in the international relations department at prominent American universities. This is modestly less corrupt (presumably they occasionally teach a course or two), but it still reeks of self-interest.

    To provide just one example, Eliot Cohen has written at the American Interest (and other venues) about his disgust for Donald Trump. What really appalls Cohen? Is it Trump’s policies or demeanor or is it that Cohen almost certainly was pining to get back into a government position if only some other Republican won the nomination? Could Cohen’s outrage have been stoked at least a little by the fact that a victorious Trump would never hire him? Before writing about Trump, wouldn’t the ethical thing to do be to reveal his self-interest? If he won’t reveal it, shouldn’t Damir Marusic, Adam Garfinkle or the other editors at least mention Cohen’s conflict of interest?

    The revolving door between think tanks, universities and government has not served our country well. It’s one way that elites perpetuate their control over an increasingly restless populace. It’s becoming apparent to almost everyone that our elites have made a mess of things, especially in the realm of foreign policy. Whatever else you can say about Trump, isn’t it good that he wants to disrupt this questionable system.

    Professor Mead has hit the daily double; he’s employed by a university and a think tank. While he’s never been an employee of government (as far as the publically available information reveals) he has represented the State Department while traveling and his travels are frequently paid by donors. As brilliant as his essays are (they are, after all, the reason we love this publication and happily pay for our subscription) it would be helpful as we consider what he has to say if we could form our own judgements about whether the views he expresses might be colored by the donors picking up the tab for his travels.

    The New York Times represents the interests of our nation’s elites in the most profound way. Occasionally, probably by accident, they reveal some numbing truths. They’ve done it in the article that Professor Mead cites about Syria. They’ve also done it in this article he doesn’t cite about the organization’s that employ him and many of his friends and colleagues.

    • Andrew Allison

      Thanks for this. The phenomenon you describe is another example of the corruption of our so-caled “democracy”.

      • WigWag

        Professor Mead’s think tank, the Hudson Institute, was also implicated by the New York Times as currying favor with a donor which is a naval contractor by publishing a report favorable to the contractor’s point of view.

        While Professor Mead is unlikely to respond to this (after all, it has absolutely nothing to do with him), the Hudson Institute has denied the charges leveled by the Times on its website. See,

        Regardless of whether there is any shady behavior in this particular case, the larger point remains; think tanks are part and parcel of the crony capitalist system that is damaging our country and our democracy.

        It’s time for some self reflection on the part of those earning a handsome living off that system. Crony capitalism is hurting our country. Those who bemoan the the failures of the “blue model” would be wise to think about how they themselves are enmeshed in a system that is so destructive and anti-democratic.

    • Jim__L

      Much of Africa’s political corruption is based on the fact that if a party were to lose political power, there isn’t anywhere the partisans could go to maintain their standard of living, so elections get rigged by the party in power so they stay there.

      What you’re describing is the lesser of two evils.

    • adk

      “I doubt they [the American foreign policy elites] could have done more harm to our country if they were actual traitors instead of being what they really are, selfish, narcissitic phonies.”

      “Selfish, narcissitic phonies” — you surely meant Trump, right? But he may be worse that that.

      “…former Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Morell …went further, tearing down her Republican opponent as “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security… he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.” castigating Donald Trump as a pawn of the Kremlin possessing overtly pro-Russian views. He minced no words: “In the intelligence business, we would say that Putin had recruited Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

      “In a recent column analyzing Trump’s bizarre comments on Crimea and Ukraine, I explained that his falsehoods uttered on national television meant that the GOP’s candidate “Either is clueless about Crimea and Ukraine, being totally unfamiliar with the basic issues, and decided to pontificate on the subject regardless while on national television. Or he is consciously parroting Kremlin propaganda.” Morell has chosen my second option for Trump, characterizing him as Putin’s man.”
      “The case for Morell’s charge is circumstantial but impressive. We have Trump’s repeated business dealings in Russia, dating to the Soviet era, none of them very successful, though that didn’t stop the candidate’s son from declaring in 2008 of the Trump Organization: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

      “Then there are the top members of the Trump campaign with questionable Kremlin ties. Mike Flynn, Trump’s national security guru, is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who in retirement has lots of nice things to say about Russia. His frequent appearances on RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda network, look suspicious, while his appearance at RT’s 10th anniversary gala, complete with a photo op with President Putin, looks even worse. That Flynn won’t answer questions if he is a paid contributor to the Kremlin’s network has set off alarm bells in Washington.

      Carter Page, Trump’s go-to guy on Russian matters, unquestionably was paid by the Kremlin during his employment with Gazprom, Russia’s state energy behemoth. Page consistently spouts pro-Moscow views and reliably takes the Kremlin line on a host of issues. Nobody who’s followed him was surprised that, during a recent visit to Russia, Page publicly attacked the United States, pointing to America, not Russia, as the source of the current difficulties in the relationship between the two countries.

      Perhaps most troubling is the pivotal role played by Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, who’s spent a lucrative career as a fixer for unsavory politicos and dictators around the world. One of them was Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s corrupt ex-president and Putin’s man, who fled to Russia after he was booted from office in early 2014. It’s not clear if Manafort still has a financial relationship with Yanukovych—which, given his client’s position as a guest of the Kremlin and a ward of its intelligence services, seems like an important question to ask.”

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The “Worst President in American History”.

  • And Libya, which was Hillary’s baby, is of a piece.

  • Daniel Richards

    Two (dismal) thoughts. 1. Obama is a great example of a successful politician but a failure as a statesman. Compare with the tactically adept but strategically blind British Prime Ministers of the 1920’s and ’30s. 2. One of the great US achievements of the Cold War was to – largely – eject the Russians from the Middle East. On Obama’s watch, the Russians are back and – worse – as king makers.


      Successful politician? Just as Hillary had to go to NY to get elected Obama had to go to Chicago and he had to destroy the lives of those he ran against to win. Politically he comes from Chicago hard to find a more corrupt city unless you go to Russia. Then he voted present for years and did absolutely nothing to improve the lives of those who voted for him. He will go down in history as one of the worse presidents and politicians ever and would already be there with all these failures if the MSM were not so ideologically tied to these same failures.

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