Obama’s shameful Syria policy

From the discarding of red lines to an unwillingness to meaningfully arm or train the Syrian rebels to looking the other way as a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions unfolds across the Middle East, Syria is a tragic exemplar of U.S. President Barack Obama’s out to lunch foreign policy

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Lost in Syria; lost around the world
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Taylor Dibbert
On 8 September 2015 08:30

U.S. efforts in Syria remain inadequate and shameful. Financial Times columnist Edward Luce recently published a great piece on American foreign policy vis-à-vis Syria.

The article is both thoughtful and critical of Washington’s minimalist approach there.

After all, Washington’s Syria policy is well-known; there isn’t much of one to speak of. From the discarding of red lines to an unwillingness to meaningfully arm or train the Syrian rebels to looking the other way as a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions unfolds across the Middle East, Syria is a tragic exemplar of U.S. President Barack Obama’s out to lunch foreign policy.

The geopolitical implications of Washington’s fecklessness in Syria are enormous and will be felt long after Obama leaves the Oval Office.

Yet, realistically, it’s probably unsound to expect any strategic shifts at this point in time. Indeed, Obama shows no indication that he’s ever truly reconsidered his misguided view of world affairs.

What’s more, now it appears that we’ve got a seemingly more assertive Obama. Or perhaps he just doesn’t care.

Let’s not worry too much about Syria since we have the Iran nuclear deal! And why not shake things up with Cuba? Washington makes some concessions, Havana doesn’t -- and now we can hope for the best.

Returning to Syria, what about looking strictly at the humanitarian implications of this crisis? Why not at least do something on that front? Why not act decisively because it’s the right thing to do? A U.S. State Department spokesman recently stated that, by the end of next month the U.S. hopes to have admitted 1,800 refugees (since the crisis began in 2011). 1,800 refugees!

Last week, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson slammed Obama’s agenda in Syria too. He mentioned that “we are not dealing here with every problem or every evil; rather a discrete and unique set of circumstances: The largest humanitarian failure of the Obama era is also its largest strategic failure.”

Lamenting America’s virtual absence, Gerson reminds readers that, “A number of options well short of major intervention might have reduced the regime’s destructive power and/or strengthened the capabilities of more responsible forces. All were untaken.”

Appropriately, Gerson refers to Syria as "the graveyard of U.S. credibility.” Over 200,000 are dead and over 11 million people have been displaced.

What a tragedy. By now, we’ve all probably heard “never again” so many times that the expression has become practically meaningless. Nevertheless, irrespective of who replaces Obama, restoring U.S. credibility will be a preeminent concern.

The unbridled optimism surrounding Obama’s presidency was extinguished long ago. Even so, perhaps there remained a glimmer of hope that he’d eventually learn from his mistakes.

Values and ideals matter. Having a clear vision matters. In times of profound crisis, people across the world still turn to the U.S. for principled global leadership.

None of this seems to matter to Obama.

Taylor Dibbert is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. and the author of Fiesta of Sunset: The Peace Corps, Guatemala and a Search for Truth. Follow him on Twitter @taylordibbert

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