As Russian bombers lay waste to American-allied opposition forces in Syria, President Obama scrambles to string together something resembling a foreign policy platform. The fact is, the Obama administration has no Syria policy. Four years of civil-war, sectarian tensions, and chemical gassing, and still, nothing.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, an Obama advisor that routinely cuddles with ambivalence, said in March that the administration is “working through what kinds of support and under what conditions” the U.S. would assist its allies in the region.
They must have taken a long coffee break. Obama’s underlings are still “working through” the contours of this supposed plan, while the Free Syrian Army, an anti-Assad contingent of defected soldiers aligned with U.S. interests, is blasted into oblivion by Vladimir Putin’s air pilots. The Daily Beast reports that United States officials conceded Thursday that there is little they could do in Syria to protect CIA-vetted rebels, the very people the American government trained and armed, who are now coming under fire by Russian airstrikes.”
Under the banner of American apologetics and prostration, the Obama administration is abandoning key strategic U.S. allies on the ground, exacerbating a political vacuum that has already seen the emergence of Sunni jihadist factions like ISIS and the al-Nusra front. The disastrously ineffectual $500 million Pentagon program to train and equip allied fighters against the Assad regime failed to yield any results. Only “four to five” militants were prepared for the project.
“We are getting to a place where there are little, if any, option left."
Sen. Bob Corker
In the midst of this futility, the U.S. is still attempting to fight a two-front war in the region: supplying the FSA and its affiliates with intelligence from CIA spies on the ground and surveillance satellites and training a separate commando unit called the New Syria Front to function as a counter-terrorism strike force against ISIS militants. The Daily Beast highlights the absurdity of this strategy, chronicling the administration’s history of consequential miscalculations:
The Obama administration has emphasized that its main fight is against ISIS, but since 2011 it has been calling for Assad’s negotiated “transition” from power. The administration realizes that it’s in a much stronger position to facilitate that transition if it underwrites the application of mild to moderate military pressure on Damascus—not enough to topple the regime but enough to keep it on the defensive. Russia, unsurprisingly, has decided to rob the U.S. of that leverage by attacking the anti-regime rebels. And Putin has calculated, with good reason, that the U.S. will do little to nothing to defend these proxies from Russian bombs.
The discursive nature of U.S. policy in the post-Iraq invasion of the Middle East is damaging both U.S. assets on the ground and the stability of the region as a whole. With Arab analysts suggesting that President Obama has been “checkmated” by Putin, the Obama doctrine delves deeper into incomprehensibility. “I don’t even know what to say,” confessed Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, “We are getting to a place where there are little, if any, option left. This administration has frittered away most opportunities --- to the point that they’re not going to be in direct with Russia, and Russia knows that.” A Cold-War style showdown with Russia is not in anybody’s best interest. Mutually Assured Destruction is still the operative phrase. That leaves the United States with very few logistically plausible options.
Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group (a leading global political risk research and consulting firm), shares Corker’s sentiments, stating that “Barack Obama’s painfully public vacillation on what to do with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad marks the low point of his six years in office.” In fact, the internationally-renowned foreign policy analyst quipped today on Twitter:
How dare Putin show the world that the US has no Syria policy? #AfterOnly4Years— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 2, 2015
All jokes aside, U.S. allies are suffering under the aerial assault of Russian jets. This president needs to materialize a Syria policy quickly. After an exodus of 4 million refugees and a death-toll marked at 300,000, it’s about time that the Obama administration takes notice.