President Obama on Wednesday defended his administration’s decision not to authorize military intervention in Syria, despite the “natural instinct” to take action to halt the brutal crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s government. . . .
“When we see what’s happening on television, you know, our natural instinct is to act,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Cameron in the Rose Garden. The session was dominated by questions about Syria, Afghanistan and Iran.
But, Obama said, the “best thing we can do right now is to make sure that the international community continues to unify around the fact that what the Syrian regime is doing is unacceptable.”
If there has been a more inept and morally obtuse statement from a U.S. president in recent years, I am at a loss to recall it. His goal is to get the “international community” to rally around the fact of a massacre?
There is no sign that Obama sees any particular U.S. role to play or that it would be in our security interest to see Iran’s closest ally, Bashar al-Assad, fall from power.
And Cameron was no better, declaring: “What is being done in Homs . . . is simply appalling and shouldn’t be allowed to stand in our world.” But it will, because neither he nor his basketball buddy are willing to exert leadership to do something about it.
Meanwhile, in the face of such paralysis, Assad’s troops plow through the country. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Syria’s military pressed on with an offensive in the country’s north on Wednesday after partly overtaking the city of Idlib, the second opposition stronghold to be overwhelmed in two weeks.” He moves with impunity and greater confidence that the West will not move to intervene. “The military gains, coupled with the diplomatic wrangling and new splits in Syria’s main opposition group, appeared to place President Assad’s regime on its firmest footing in months. As the uprising against Mr. Assad’s 12-year rule crosses the one-year mark and teeters on civil war, activists and rebel fighters said they were discouraged but vowed to fight on.”
Not unlike the Green Revolution in 2009, the president nearly three years later is willing to allow an opportunity — to undermine Iran, support democracy, reassert U.S. leadership — slip away. Every now and then the president talks a good game on human rights, but his heart is never in it. In this case, even when coupled with an obvious and compelling national security objective, passivity rules the day.
Obama’s reelection objective, namely no more foreign conflicts, trumps decent policy. But the foreign conflicts don’t go away simply because we don’t participate. Instead, despots triumph, other powers (e.g. Russia) extend their influence and the United States’s credibility is eroded. When they ask, “Who lost Syria and Iran?” you’ll know the answer.