The Obama record: leading from behind in Syria

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President Obama has left Syria’s oppressive regime emboldened and has allowed a human tragedy to unfold inside the country.

First, he tried to appease Assad, saying in February 2009: “We can’t kick the can down the road. We’re gonna have to take a regional approach. We’re gonna have to involve Syria in discussions. We’re gonna have to engage Iran in ways that we have not before.”

According to the Washington Post later that year, “President Obama has decided to return a U.S. ambassador to Syria after an absence of more than four years, marking a significant step toward engaging an influential Arab nation long at odds with the United States.”

In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria’s government could still “make reforms despite mounting political violence that has sparked worldwide condemnation.” Clinton herself was widely criticized after she called Assad a reformer, citing the views of congressional leaders who had met with the Syrian leader. The Washington Post called it “wishful thinking.” “60 Syrians had already been massacred by Mr. Assad’s security forces; others have since fallen. Ms. Clinton was only reflecting a piece of wishful thinking to which the Obama administration and its congressional allies have tenaciously clung: that Mr. Assad, despite his brutality, sponsorship of terrorism and close alliance with Iran, can somehow be turned into a Western ally.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year questioned Obama’s reluctance on calling for Assad to go. “That’s one of the many mysteries of the Administration’s policy toward Syria. Unlike with Egypt, where Mr. Obama was quick to call for Hosni Mubarak’s departure despite his 30-year alliance with the U.S., it took months for the President to call for Mr. Assad to go—and that’s despite the Assad family’s 40-year track record of hostility to the U.S. and its support for terrorism.”

The New York Times last week concluded in spite of “classified assessments” on the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 30,000 lives, Obama’s strategy of “minimal and indirect intervention” has failed to help topple Assad and instead, may be “sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.”
It should be alarming to know that:

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

This summer, the NYT noted that not only is Al Qaeda not dead or on the run, it is becoming bigger, bolder and increasingly involved in the violence in Syria (and other places like, oh, say, Benghazi).

It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s — with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field. “We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God,” said a speaker in the video using the classical Arabic favored by Al Qaeda.

Now, the Washington Post takes Obama to task on his “serial miscalculations” saying they “have had the consistent if unintended effect of enabling Syria’s Bashar al-Assad — first to avoid international isolation, then to go on slaughtering his own population with impunity. Obama’s Syria policy began in 2009 with the misguided idea of reaching out to the dictator. Within a month of his inauguration, Obama reversed the Bush administration’s approach of isolating Assad. He later reopened the U.S. Embassy and dispatched senior envoys, such as George Mitchell.”

Even Obama’s allies are calling for a more assertive role in Syria. Senator John Kerry – on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said “The United States needs to do more to protect civilians in Syria, including considering setting up safe zones inside Syria and potentially arming the opposition.” According to “The Cable“, “Kerry also warned that if the balance of power is not tilted in Syria in the opposition’s favor, it’s unlikely that President Bashar al-Assad will step down. A political transition that sees Assad removed from power remains the goal, he said, but the United States must step up its efforts to make that goal a reality.”

Former Secretary Of State Madeline Albright told the NYT this summer: “I’m for intervention, but it doesn’t have to be on-the-ground military intervention. We do have to get more involved in this.’ Albright said that the American intervention should be multilateral, but that the inability to achieve a Security Council resolution shouldn’t block action any more than it did in Kosovo in 1999. “We can’t afford to be in a cul-de-sac while people are being killed,” she said.”

Last night, Obama said in the 3rd and final debate: “We are playing the leadership role. We organized the Friends of Syria. We are mobilizing humanitarian support, and support for the opposition. And we are making sure that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term and friends of our allies in the region over the long term.”

Somehow, I don’t think Al Qaeda is shaking in their boots over Obama’s stance towards Syria and its murderous leader.

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4 Responses to “The Obama record: leading from behind in Syria”

  1. Richard Warnick Says:

    Unless the U.S. Congress declares war on Syria, diplomacy is the only option allowed under our Constitution. I hope you know that.

  2. David Says:

    Richard, as sad as it is to say, we have not formally declared war since WWII. Good thing we haven’t been in any wars since then, right? We have an imperial Presidency right now. The President is wayyyy more powerful than the office was ever intended to be. Also, if you are looking for a reason, Syria harbors and supports terrorists and could be part of the war on terror.

  3. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Most of the conflicts sense WW2 have been authorized by congress even if no formal declaration was given. A number of conflicts where authorized by the UN and then congress.

    Either way, congress has to enable the military activity, It most certainly isn’t an action the president can take unilaterally on his own.

    Anyway we can’t afford another war, there to bloody expensive. At least without a hefty tax increase, unless we are prepared to place a war excise tax on top of income taxes to pay for it. A 30% increase would be the minimum to pay for such a thing, raising middle class rates from 15% to 22% and the top bracket from 39.2% to 45-47%.

    If Bush and the republicans would have acted responsibly back in 2001-2002 and placed a war excise tax to pay for their wars our deficit problem would be much smaller.

  4. Richard Warnick Says:

    President Obama’s intervention in Libya was not authorized by Congress, not even with an AUMF. That was a very bad precedent. I really wish our Congress would step up and take responsibility, but for politicians it’s always easier to stand on the sidelines and criticize.

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