Obama’s foreign policy is that Obama has no foreign policy.
NOTE: Obama’s first mistake was drawing a line in the sand without properly thinking through all the possible scenarios, as well as laying down the foundation for the justification in acting against Syria, to bring about a plausible conclusion that benefits U.S. interests. He hasn’t, and that’s because he can’t, hoping that his bluff wouldn’t be called.
Policy-makers and commentators who have insisted that we can trust Obama to keep his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have based their view on an argument that now lies in tatters. They insisted that by pledging to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Obama staked his reputation on acting competently to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. To avoid losing face, they said, Obama will keep his pledge.
Obama’s behavior on Syria has rendered this position indefensible. Obama is perfectly content with shooting a couple of pot shots at empty government installations. As far as he is concerned, the conduct of air strikes in Syria is not about Syria, or Iran. They are not the target audience of the strikes. The target audience for US air strikes in Syria is the disengaged, uninformed American public.
The questions that ought to have been answered before any statements were made by the likes of Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have barely been raised in the public arena. The most important of those questions are: What US interests are at stake in Syria? How should the US go about advancing them? What does Syria’s use of chemical weapons means for the US’s position in the region? How would the planned US military action in Syria impact US deterrent strength, national interests and credibility regionally and worldwide? Syria is not an easy case. Thirty months into the war there, it is clear that the good guys, such as they are, are not in a position to win.
Syria is controlled by Iran and its war is being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and by Hezbollah. And arrayed against them are rebel forces dominated by al-Qaida.
As US Sen. Ted Cruz explained this week, “Of nine rebel groups [fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad], seven of them may well have some significant ties to al-Qaida.”
With no good horse to bet on, the US and its allies have three core interests relating to the war. First, they have an interest in preventing Syria’s chemical, biological and ballistic missile arsenals from being used against them either directly by the regime, through its terror proxies or by a successor regime.
Second, the US and its allies have an interest in containing the war as much as possible to Syria itself.
Finally, the US and its allies share an interest in preventing Iran, Moscow or al-Qaida from winning the war or making any strategic gains from their involvement in the war.