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Friday, September 04, 2015

The graveyard of US credibility

As President Obama's dear friend Reverend Jeremiah Wright might say, the chickens have come home to roost. Or at least one of them has. That chicken is the feckless policy that Obama has pursued (or more correctly not pursued) in Syria for the last four years. This is the Washington Post's Michael Gerson with a scathing indictment of Obama's inaction.
At many points during the past four years, even relatively small actions might have reduced the pace of civilian casualties in Syria. How hard would it have been to destroy the helicopters dropping barrel bombs on neighborhoods? A number of options well short of major intervention might have reduced the regime’s destructive power and/or strengthened the capabilities of more responsible forces. All were untaken.
This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.
In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility. The chemical weapons “red line.” “The tide of war is receding.” “Don’t do stupid [stuff].” These are global punch lines. “The analogy we use around here sometimes,” said Obama of the Islamic State, “and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Now the goal to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State looks unachievable with the current strategy and resources. “The time has come for President Assad to step aside,” said Obama in 2011. Yet Assad will likely outlast Obama in power.
What explains Obama’s high tolerance for humiliation and mass atrocities in Syria? The Syrian regime is Iran’s proxy, propped up by billions of dollars each year. And Obama wanted nothing to interfere with the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran. He was, as Hof has said, “reluctant to offend the Iranians at this critical juncture.” So the effective concession of Syria as an Iranian zone of influence is just one more cost of the president’s legacy nuclear agreement.
Never mind that Iran will now have tens of billions of unfrozen assets to strengthen Assad’s struggling military. And never mind that Assad’s atrocities are one of the main recruiting tools for the Islamic State and other Sunni radicals. All of which is likely to extend a war that no one can win, which has incubated regional and global threats — and thrown a small body in a red T-shirt against a distant shore.
I'm debating which is Obama's bigger obsession: empowering Iran or destroying Israel. Clearly, those have been the only foreign policy goals of this administration. Now, it seems that Obama is close to the first goal. In fact, he may already have 'achieved' it. It would be a crying shame if one of the two Secretaries of State who didn't stand up to those obsessions becomes the next President of the United States.

Read the whole thing.

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