May 1, 2013

I agree with my colleague Carter Eskew’s sentiments in his post yesterday about the president’s position and America’s options in Syria. Republicans should not try to force the president’s hand to do something in Syria just because the president can’t admit his mistake in declaring that a “red line” would be crossed when the regime used chemical weapons. Let’s let the president off the hook.

And in an op-ed today, Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco and White House Middle East Adviser Marc Ginsberg reminds us that there are “no best ‘worst options’” we can take on Syria and that “Washington’s rhetoric did not face up or square with reality.” He’s right – we can’t let ourselves believe that we can influence events there anytime soon. We should keep our eye on the ball, and the ball in this case is the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons. Let’s worry more about that and less about how to shape political events after Assad.

I’m suddenly finding myself agreeing with Democrats, but I’m sure it will pass.

The truth is, we can’t control events in Afghanistan via President Hamid Karzai or events in Iraq via Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom we installed. We should not believe for an instant that we’ll control events in Syria if we give a few weapons to a few “moderates.”  In this case, the president’s natural instinct to do nothing may actually be the best policy.  Given what has happened from Tunisia to Iran in the last couple years, there’s no reason for us to believe that Syria would become a beacon of democracy, a forthright ally of America, or a promoter of any particular American interest after the regime falls.  If the fighting in Syria produces a Syria that is weak for a few decades, that probably suits America’s interests in the region and elsewhere just about as well as any other plausible outcome. The loss of life there is tragic, but it’s hard to see how us entering the fight could make a lasting difference.

Also, Carter is right to quote George Mitchell, because on foreign policy George Mitchell is usually right. He is a wise man on the world stage and he has particularly relevant expertise to speak to this issue.

Republicans shouldn’t seize upon the “red line” mistake to force bad policy in hopes of just embarrassing President Obama.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.