A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.
Julia Ioffe at the New Republic-‘The Syria Solution: How Obama Got Played By Putin & Assad’
What do you do when you have little to no strategy, a map that isn’t lining up with events, and no clear vision of what you want to achieve?:
This, to borrow a phrase from a Congressional staffer at his wits’ end, “is an unmitigated clusterfuck.”
Strong language, but, you know, perhaps quite appropriate here. This blog is generally more skeptical of the liberal internationalist ideals and the human rights crowd running foreign policy, because no matter how successful the realpolitik, they can often put the cart before the horse. I suspect few people expected the cart to be unhooked from the horse and left in the mud for a few years.
‘As it stands now, Russia and France have taken the lead on working out a plan to get Assad to hand over his chemical weapons, a lead Obama seems all too happy to relinquish. Hammering out the details will take a some time, and, while they’re at it, Assad will still have his chemical weapons but will no longer be under the threat of a U.S. military strike. (Who knows if he’ll use them, but he certainly hasn’t let up on the conventional shelling.) Putin has succeeded in throwing sand in the gears of the American political process and separating the U.S. from its allies, and the current American handwringing over Syria seems likely to grind on for weeks. And a pro-Assad paper ran with the following headline this morning: “Moscow and Damascus Pull the Rug Out From Under the Feet of Obama.”
Our foe, the obviously undemocratic Putin, has come to rescue our cart! Of course, by opportunistically taking advantage of our leadership vacuum and uniting Russian opinion against us. Our profile and influence diminish further. Assad, our clear foe and ruthless dicator thug stays in power, maybe the chemical weapons the Russians have been supplying to him are taken away, but probably not. The Civil war continues and continues to spill out all over the place.
That’s if Putin is even serious.
Meanwhile, our allies and possible alliances remain ignored, unconvinced, or can be seen turning away with looks of disbelief, back to their own politics to play this for what they can and pursue their own interests as they see fit, perhaps at our expense. At the same time, our enemies, like Al Qaeda, remain under little to no pressure from anyone to become more ‘moderate,’ while Iran’s regime keeps one foot in the ‘international community’ pretending to be civil, with the other kicking furiously towards deliverable nuclear weapons, the Shia crescent, and regional domination.
At home, public opinion remains strongly against this war, and deeply skeptical of our political leadership.
I fail to see much upside here.
Dan Drezner tries to spin this deal into something tolerable, perhaps some kind of victory towards inducing foes and bad actors towards the goal of international law and the Geneva Conventions, but, think about it: A gaffe made by Kerry is pounced upon by Putin and Assad in order to help our President out of his own corner…towards international cooperation:
‘Despite a series of mistakes, screw-ups, u-turns, and flubs, it’s possible that the Obama administration can, at the end of the day, claim credit for forcing Syria’s regime into relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile and signing on to the convention banning its use.
Take the deal. Take it now.’
Here’s to hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
Addition: Get ready for the President’s speech, and the refrain that this was a war averted and brilliant game of chess by the President. The ideals were advanced. All is well.
Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient: “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”. It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire
Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill
Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’…Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’…Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others…