Let’s count the ways in which President Obama has screwed up his Syria policy.
1. He failed to take a stand in a conflict that clearly involves our interests. Bashar Assad is an ally of our enemy, Iran, and a supporter of Iran’s interests and of terrorism throughout the Middle East. He arms people who want to destroy Israel, and Israel is our friend, whose continued existence we safeguard militarily. The chance to eliminate Assad should have been seized early with a robust program of assistance to rebels before Islamists and al Qaeda had fully infiltrated their ranks.
2. Obama drew a red line without thinking. He committed to United States to action without thoroughly understanding the consequences. America must be considered true to its word or it will not be taken seriously, and national security will be severely damaged. This type of irresponsibility is what happens when you elect someone with no relevant experience for the job to be president.
3. Having drawn the red line, he failed to enforce it. The White House Friday acknowledged that Assad has already crossed the red line multiple times, using chemical weapons in limited amounts against his people. Really? Now you tell us? The United States did not even respond by sending light weapons to the opposition, which everyone understood was supposed to happen. It’s no wonder Assad felt free to wage a larger attack.
4. Obama is planning a limited attack on Assad. That is not worth doing. Any attack that fails to take out Assad or destroy his defenses is counterproductive. A limited strike will only rally sympathy for Assad and prove to the world that the United States won’t act forcefully to back up its word and support its interests, and that it lacks commitment to lead.
And a world without U.S. leadership is a very dangerous one indeed. The world won’t go away just because we decide to abandon it. When we ignore our enemies, they eventually come to get us, as they did twelve years ago next month.