Why So Timid With Syria?

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    The administration’s limping foreign policy voice whimpered a bit yesterday. Weeks after the murders began in the tradition of Hama rules (and actually replaying in Hama), the world’s beacon of freedom has dimmed. While we arrogantly jumped into the Libyan fray, we invited Syrian dissidents to coffee with our Ambassador.

    Until yesterday, when the State Department concluded that one of two outcomes (Assad stopping the violence or Assad stepping down) could be worked to its credit, the United States hadn’t taken much of any position. State did make the marvelously stupid move of having the Ambassador reach out to and meet with dissidents. Now we have not only managed to alienate all parties who matter in Damascus, we have been turned a paper tiger.

    …the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, … accused the United States of “instigating further violence in the country, and giving the wrong message to the armed terrorist armed groups that they are under American and Western protection so that they go ahead with their insurrection and destructive activities in the country.” – New York Times

    There are a few reasons we are lead footed, but none of them excuse the inconsistent, meddling, and hypocritical foreign policy emanating from our State Department. Resentment of the United States is growing in places you’d never expect. We have been played like a cheap fiddle by our “friends” in Europe. All of this harkens back to the days before Bush II. A predictable overconfidence followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Reinforced by having our way with Iraq in the first Gulf War, the old guard at the State Department dreamed of perpetual hegemony not from diplomatic capacity but from military might. That dream is now turned nightmare. Yesterday’s statements are attempts at opportunistic leverage, but will backfire.

    The Russians object. They have significant interests in Syria. There are many other national versions of An American in Yemen. When I lived in Damascus, I was told by a Russian military officer who worked with the Russian trade mission that there were 20,000 Russians who did not repatriate from Syria when the Soviet military walked away.

    Israel is at significant risk from any death spasm that occurs when the Ba’athists lose their grip. That is likely the motivation for adopting the hypocritical posture vis a vis the Libya adventure. That demonstration at the Alpha Bravo line on the Golan by Palestinian pawns had to have sent a chill down the backs of those arrogant State Department hacks. Imagine a flood of unarmed civilians carrying children pouring into Israel from Syria. Is that an invasion? Imagine the Arab reaction to Israeli forces driving them back. Silent about Syrian atrocities, the enemies of Israel would win this psychological warfare operation, to the detriment of our ally.

    Why so timid? Because we have fumbled in Libya. Another moment, not our brightest, brought to us by an ineffective Secretary of State revealing the limits of our military power. The statement yesterday was made at a moment that someone thought Assad might be stopping the violence. Barring that, the inevitable fall could be claimed a result of our “strong” posturing and the coffee klatch with the Ambassador. Neither meager effort will result in anything good for the United States or Israel. The President doesn’t need this kind of help when his focus must be on domestic issues.