The Ultimate Opportunist

President Barack Obama has been an absolute no-show on the issue of Syria and if you were holding your breath in anticipation of White House action, you’ve probably blacked out by now.

In 2011, the administration was fist-pumping over the Arab Spring and committed boots-on-the-ground in Libya to supplant Colonel Gaddafi. Mr. Obama claimed support for the “democratic” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but the same support has not been forthcoming with regard to the bloodshed in Syria.

For that matter, Mr. Obama turned his back on the Iranian people in 2009 when revolutionaries actively resisted the Ahmadinejad regime. Democratic change was possible in Iran and its possible in Syria, but the president is mute. The Arab Spring fed the flames of radical Islam in the Middle East and was also easily predictable. As I’ve stated before, those uprisings replaced one set of despots for another and have furthered the global cause of sharia.

An eight-year war in Iraq and continued hostilities in Afghanistan involve quite a bit of political capital and Mr. Obama knows this. His resolution of the Iraq War in December 2011 was not coincidental. It was a bone tossed to the base. Deployment of troops to Syria would not earn the president any brownie points with steadfast-supporters, so he’s curtained the issue despite the daily headlines filled with grisly detail. The opposition movement in Damascus is pressing on alone as the administration dithers and the U.N. puts forward inept negotiation tactics:

Syria’s leader rebuffed a high-profile diplomatic effort to stem the country’s year-long crisis on Saturday, as Syrian troops pushed ahead with a new assault on the northern region of Idlib.

While the fighting raged, President Bashar al-Assad told United Nations envoy Kofi Annan in Damascus that any political dialogue was doomed to fail “as long as there are armed terrorist groups that work to spread anarchy and destabilize the country,” according to the state news agency SANA. The regime blames terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy for the uprising, not protesters seeking change.

The opposition also has rejected dialogue, saying it is impossible to talk to Mr. Assad’s regime after a crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 7,500 people. Activists put the toll even higher, at more than 8,000.

Prolonged civil war is on the horizon in Syria. Assad does not appear to be ready to relinquish power and opposition forces seem resolute. Senator John McCain has called on the administration to support the resistance effort in Damascus with airstrikes and a supply of weapons, but not much more than the chirping of crickets can be heard from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith observes:

With his Senate colleagues Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, McCain released a statement calling for “relief from Assad’s tank and artillery sieges. .  .  . Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but as Assad continues to intensify his assault, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.” The three senators realize that this “will first require the United States and our partners to suppress the Syrian regime’s air defenses in at least part of the country.”

Obama has called what’s happening in Syria “heart-breaking” and “outrageous”. These were some of his other comments from March 6:

The international community has mobilized against the Assad regime and it’s not a question of when Assad leaves –  or if Assad leaves. It’s a question of when. He has lost the legitimacy of his people and the action he’s now taking against his own people is inexcusable and the world community has said so in a more or less unified voice. On the other hand, for us to take military action – unilaterally, as some have suggested – or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake. What happened in Libya  was we mobilized the international community, had a U.N. security council mandate, had the full cooperation of the region Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation, so what we’ve done is to work with key Arab states, key international partners. Hillary Clinton was in Tunisia – to come together and to mobilize and plan how do we support the opposition, how do we support humanitarian assistance, how do we continue the political isolation, how do we continue the economic isolation. We are going to continue to work on this project with other countries, and it is my belief that, ultimately, this dictator will fall as dictators in the past have fallen. But the notion that the way to solve everyone of these problems is to deploy our military – that hasn’t been true in the past and it won’t be true now. We’ve got to think through what we do – through the lens of what’s going to be effective but also what’s critical for U.S. security interests.

Translation: We’re going to lead from behind.

There is this sudden wariness to avoid military conflict but curiously that same emotion was non-existent when the president authorized deployments to Libya. It was in our best interest to topple that dictatorship but in this instance, we’ve got a much more “complicated situation”. We can’t just run in and shoot up the place. The global community must lead the way.

Meanwhile, innocent Syrians are being massacred and the opposition to Assad’s military hangs on for dear life.

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2 Responses to The Ultimate Opportunist

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate Opportunist « Preserving Liberty

  2. Dana Pearson says:

    Good article. On this issue, Graham, Lieberman and McCain are correct. Influencing events in Syria is far more doable than influencing events in the Persian Gulf, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

    The Assad regime is no longer legitimate after killing thousands of its own citizens over the past year or so. It is time to recognize the opposition as the true voice of Syria and then destroy the Syrian air defenses and arm the Free Syrian Army.

    We put no boots on the ground in Libya and we probably would not need to do so in Syria either.

    Let the Chinese and Europeans fight over the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, if they want to. But the Mediterranean should be a Western Sea with legitimate governments that are not openly hostile to America.