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Sunday, March 07, 2010

When 'engagement' becomes appeasement

Former State Department Middle East specialist Elliott Abrams rips the Obama administration's 'engagement' policy with Syria for long since having gone over into appeasement.
“Engagement” constitutes “appeasement” if it fails to change Syrian conduct, and the failure to change is overlooked while the “engagement” continues and accelerates. This would not just be fooling ourselves but condoning, rewarding, and thereby inducing even more bad conduct by the Assad regime.

Which is precisely what has happened during this year of American engagement.


In fact, however the Obama administration views its overtures to Syria, the best evidence that these steps now constitute appeasement is found in Syria’s response. On February 25, Assad hosted an Axis of Evil party, meeting with Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Washington Post reported that “the presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East ‘without Zionists,’ combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances.” More striking was the headline the Post put on the story: “Iran, Syria Mock U.S. Policy.”

Assad’s conduct is surprising only if you view him as a seeker after peace, waiting merely for the hand of friendship from Washington to reorient his regime toward the West. That appears to have been the Obama approach. But Assad’s reaction is entirely predictable if you view him as a vicious dictator dependent on Iran’s regime for political, financial, and military support. Similarly, the notion that American “engagement” is the road to a Syrian-Israeli peace deal over the Golan Heights is sensible if you believe he needs only a bit of American encouragement to ditch his alliance with Iran and turn West. But the terrorist trilateral just held in Damascus should be all the proof anyone needs that George Mitchell may as well stay home: A Golan deal is not in the cards. No Israeli prime minister is foolish enough to hand the Golan to a Syria whose main allies are Israel’s two most dangerous enemies: Hezbollah and Iran.
Abrams has a policy prescription for the Obama administration going forward that is radically different than what the Obami have done until now. Read the whole thing.

Jennifer Rubin laments:
We were supposed to get smart diplomacy with the Obami, and instead we got diplomacy that is both amoral and counterproductive. As with so much else that has gone wrong in this administration, the collision of hubris and extreme ideology has been painful to watch.
Yes, but I don't see it changing. This President has shown himself to be as dogmatic as they come, and that is unlikely to change even if - as many of us hope - not changing guarantees that he will be a one-term President. Unfortunately, there are some real potential disasters on the horizon that this President could bring upon the World. He refuses to be tough on any country that is not an American ally, while taking America's allies for granted.

What could go wrong?


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