‘The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years.’
Assad is still there…
My long-winded, critical take: Many bad actors claim to honor the rules of the ‘international community’ while continuing to pursue their aims, which often work against any such definition of said ‘community’ many in the West would like to see. The Moscow/Tehran/Damascus alliance has strengthened considerably, while the Syrian conflict has continued.
Of course, acquiring deliverable nukes doesn’t just potentially conflict with American interests, but against the professed ideals of those claiming to currently speak for the ‘international community’ within American leadership. American interests are still primarily bankrolling (blood and treasure) much of the ‘international community’s’ ability to influence bad actors.
It’s not clear to me current American policy will stop the Iranian regime from trying to get where, quite apparently, it wants to be. In trading the previous negative constraints (sanctions, threat of force), for such weak affirmative restraints (the current deal), this may have simply deleveraged American advantage for little ‘yield’.
It’d be nice to be wrong. I’m listening.
A potentially useful analogy: The American military could be analogous to the police in Dallas, or St Louis, or Boston: They still have to protect and serve American citizens but they’ve been brought to heel under the scrutiny of activist logic.
Such logic incentivizes a lot of people, including bad actors, without much in the way of constraints upon behavior, except in joining the activist’s cause or the activist’s definition of ‘community’ in de-legitimizing current traditions and institutions, and in often dehumanizing ‘others’. The American military, much like the police in Dallas, St Louis, or Boston, are still responsible for dealing with bad actors who wish to do them (and us) harm, but their risk has gone way up, while their legitimacy has gone way down (and our legitimacy wasn’t great before Obama).
***I suspect anti-American interests will keep doing what they can to maximize advantage in the meantime (Putin is a prime example), while interests that could align with American interests may look around for other strong-horses. Situational logic applies in decisions that could be a matter of life and death for smaller players (you’ve got to cozy up to someone, maybe just to keep ’em off you). More strongly allied nations will likely wait around and quietly diversify their portfolios.
At home, putting an activist at the helm has tacked American policy/politics Leftward, and may well create more hawkish Democrats, neo-conservatives, and conservatives both angry/disconsolate at this state of affairs, looking to carve out a path forward in reaction and response.
Populist anger and political dysfunction don’t tend to make for great foreign policy.
Let me know what/how much I’ve got wrong.
Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source‘