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Right Turn
Posted at 05:32 PM ET, 07/19/2012

What was Obama waiting for in Syria?

Two items today highlight the ineptitude of the administration’s foreign policy.

First, David Ignatius writes: “The CIA has been working with the Syrian opposition for several weeks under a non-lethal directive that allows the United States to evaluate groups and assist them with command and control. Scores of Israeli intelligence officers are also operating along Syria’s border, though they are keeping a low profile.” Several weeks ?! The crisis is nearly 18 months old. Why did we wait until now to put operatives in the field? If the administration was waiting for Kofi Annan to bring peace, it is more foolish than we imagined. If it was waiting for Vladimir Putin to cooperate, Obama’s reset policy has become rank appeasement. And if it finally dawned on someone that it might not look great for the president to stand idly by while a bloodbath and proliferation of WMDs transpired, then you have to wonder if the president is so absorbed in his campaign that he didn’t see this months ago.

The Post reports on the other noteworthy and even more dismaying event: “Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a U.S.-backed United Nations Security Council resolution threatening the Syrian government with sanctions, upending four months of diplomacy aimed at stemming a crisis that has left more than 14,000 dead and engulfed the country in civil war. The action dealt a potentially fatal blow to U.N.-Arab League emissary Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, and cast doubts that Moscow and Beijing are prepared to apply pressure on Syria to meet its commitments to constrain its troops.”

Actually, it didn’t “upend” anything. Th entire effort was farce from the get-go, and for the United States to continue to invite Russia and China to rebuff our pleas is nothing short of pathetic.

Mitt Romney bashed the president in a written statement: “Russia’s veto again shows the hollowness of President Obama’s failed ‘reset’ policy with Russia and his lack of leadership on Syria. President Obama has given away generous concessions on missile defense and nuclear arms to Russia, but has received little in return except obstruction and belligerence. While Russia and Iran have rushed to support Bashar al-Assad and thousands have been slaughtered, President Obama has abdicated leadership and subcontracted U.S. policy to Kofi Annan and the United Nations. Under this President, American influence and respect for our position around the world is at a low ebb.”

The pace at which the Obama administration figures things out is alarmingly slow. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said, The Post reported, that “the United States would no longer ‘pin its policy’ on unarmed U.N. observers lacking even ‘minimal support’ from the Security Council, but would work with a diverse coalition of countries outside the council to ‘bring pressure to bear’ on the Syrian regime.” Didn’t the president and his “smart” diplomats clue in months ago? I guess not.

There are two interpretations of events: Either 1) the president was so inattentive or actively opposed to effective U.S. action (because he didn’t want a new military endeavor in an election year) that his underlings had to tread water for 18 months; or 2) the administration is terribly foolish about how the United Nations, Russia, China and Assad operate. These are not mutually exclusive explanations.

By  |  05:32 PM ET, 07/19/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, foreign policy, Human Rights

 
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