The Washington Post Editorial Board laments the fact that the Obama administration lacks a strategy on Syria.
Meanwhile, the United States — the one power with the means to end the horrific crimes against humanity that are paving Mr. Assad’s road to “reelection” — no longer even pretends to have a strategy. On March 26, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson responded to questions about the administration’s policy from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by promising a classified briefing. Secretary of State John F. Kerry made the same pledge when senators from both parties demanded answers on April 8. The briefing has not yet been scheduled.The problem is that the US has squandered its capital that it gained after the 9/11 attacks on perpetual warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the "war on terror." And so the US is reduced to token gestures like sending 600 troops to Poland for exercises and $50 million of aid announced by Biden in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. And while they achieved successes in getting rid of Bin Laden and Qadaffi and getting rid of most of Syria's chemical weapons, chlorine was not covered under the deal. Now, there are allegations that Syria is using chlorine in bombing rebel strongholds.
The other problem is that many of the groups that are fighting Assad are worse, including the ISIS and the same people who attacked our people during 9/11. They would do the exact same thing and more if the tables were turned. Now, Assad is calling for "elections" which will be rigged to ensure that he "wins" another term in office.
The US has suffered severe credibility problems over the last decade and its first priority has to be to recover its damaged credibility that it lost. In order to do that, the US has to see things as they actually are, not the way they want to see things. The era of the Pax Americana is over; we are now living in a multipolar world in which numerous entities compete for influence around the world. We have acquired a reputation of letting the ends justify the means.
Case in point -- we have supported numerous foreign dictators over the years along with numerous extreme right-wing elements over the years in the name of "spreading freedom," "fighting communism," or "stopping terrorism." By supporting far right elements in Ukraine or enabling the same people in Syria who are fighting our troops in Afghanistan and who attacked us on 9/11, we have undermined our claim that we are all about spreading freedom around the world. The problem is, if governments do not do our bidding or show too much independence, then that is when we lay the groundwork for regime change or military strikes.
The first thing we must do is to renounce regime change as a tool of choice. We do not know the exact number, but we have attempted dozens of coups over the years since 1953, starting with Iran. The blowback from that coup is still being felt today. The second thing we must do is that we should no longer support rebellions that have extremist elements in them which could be worse than the people we are trying to get rid of. The third thing we should do is to respect other countries' sphere of influence. Russia, for instance, sees itself as the protector of Orthodox Christians in Syria. Russia and Ukraine have historic ties dating back to the 9th century. Iran, for instance, has emerged from the chaos in the Middle East as a regional power.
The fact that the US still insists, as the State Department said in its news conference Monday, that Assad's days are numbered as well as the imperious dictatorial tone that Victoria Nuland took during her notorious speech last December means that this government is still not adjusting to the new realities. The only way that this can be turned around is for this government to act according to the values contained in the Constitution as well as George Washington's Farewell Address, in which he warned against excessive foreign entanglements. This is not an argument for isolationism, but an argument for behavior such as respecting human rights and for not using force unless as a last resort.
The US still has time to get its house in order. The biggest deterrent of Russian aggression is the markets, which are fleeing that country in droves in response to its aggression in Crimea and East Ukraine. Should Russia conclude that it has "no choice" but to invade to "protect Russia's interests," as Lavrov threatened today, this capital flight will accelerate. That is a much bigger deterrent than any sort of force that we could even dream of mustering.
The problem with the way we are doing things now is that the Russians, Assad, Iran, and other dictators around the world can use the threat of US regime change and US imperialism to keep their people in line. So our policies over the last 60 years have served to enable people like Putin, Khomeini, and Assad. But if we renounce imperialism (such as regime change) as a means to effect punishment on countries we don't like, then dictators like these will collapse under their own weight as they could no longer use the threat of US imperialism to keep their people in line.