“The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19 (March 29)

Latest News and Opinion on Syria

Dominic Evans (Beirut), “Assad says foreign aid to rebels must stop under peace plan,” Reuters, March 29, 2012 (8:54 pm BST).

Adrian Blomfeld, “Syria: Bashar al-Assad raises questions over commitment to peace deal; President Bashar al-Assad has raised questions over his commitment to a UN-backed initiative he agreed to just days ago by demanding that Syria’s rebels disarm before a peace deal can be reached, The Telegraph, March 29, 2012 (8:01 pm BST).

Der Spiegel reports that 29 people were killed on Thursday, mostly in Homs, Idlib and in the suburbs of Damaskus.

–Christoph Sydow, “Assad ignoriert Annans Friedensplan; Mit sechs Punkten zum Frieden: Uno und Arabische Liga setzen auf Kofi Annans Lösungsplan, der den Machtkampf in Syrien befrieden soll. Doch das Regime in Damaskus setzt bislang keine der Forderungen um. Assad spielt auf Zeit – und hofft weiter auf die fehlende Entschlossenheit des Westens,” Der Spiegel, den 31. März 2012. This article also contains a summary of the six-point U.N. peace plan of Kofi Annan, in German.

Tony Badran, “Passivity and incoherence on Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 29, 2012.

Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 22, 2012.

Opinion: Marc Ginsberg

Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco has condemned recent U.S. policy on Syria, highlighting similarities with the Clinton White House’s handling of atrocities in the Balkans up until the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenice in July, 1995.

Flash forward 17 years later, and in this second year of Syria’s so-called Arab Spring bloodbath it’s déjà vu all over again at 1600 Penn. While Syria is not Srebrenica, there are eerie similarities in how this Obama team is hopelessly caught up in a Bosnian-style policy vacuum circa 1995, characterized by an excessively domineering election campaign apparatus that inexorably trumps national security considerations. That is a dangerous recipe when coupled with the absence of any long-term strategy in Syria.

Why is the White House on such a slippery slope that it claims it is determined to avoid?

Tracing the policy of the White House over the last year, Ginsburg notes that Obama and his team reacted to Syrian atrocities like “kryptonite”, stressed unsubstantiated fears about what would come after Assad as a reason for inaction, and coupled repeated calls for Assad to go with a failure to impose consequences on al-Assad. Consistently, the White House political operation’s desire to keep Syria out of the election trumped national security considerations.

Shockingly, Ginsberg relates how the U.S. enlisted Turkish support for certain options, and then cut the ground out from under the Turks by telling them that Obama “preferred going through the Russians” to secure peace by supporting the U.N. peace initiative led by Kofi Annan.

(A)s more reports of atrocities trickled out of Syria last summer, the U.S. began subcontracting U.S. policy to Turkey in the expectation that greater coordination with Ankara would create more multilateral support against the regime. At the time, this made eminent sense. Ankara, faced with a growing humanitarian refugee crisis on its Syrian border, and furious with its failed investment in the Assad regime, picked up the mantle. There were bilateral talks of buffer zones and humanitarian corridors and, perhaps non-lethal support to the nascent Free Syrian Army.

But as my able colleague Tony Badran reported in his blog in www.nowlebanon.com (confirming what I picked up during my recent visit to Turkey a few days ago), Secretary Clinton caught her Turkish counterpart off guard during their meeting in Washington last month. Clinton reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the Obama Administration “preferred going through the Russians” in an attempt to achieve a political solution being shopped by the UN/Arab League’s Special Syrian Envoy Kofi Annan.

By unexpectedly dismissing Turkish/Arab League plans to create a buffer zone/or humanitarian corridor as well as organizing and providing non-lethal support to the Free Syrian Army, everything that Turkey thought was on the table with Washington appeared to fall off of it. It seemed to matter to no one in the White House that it had just pushed our Turkish colleagues over the cliff after we had jumped on their bandwagon.

(I)f the U.S. refuses to accede to new ideas from its “Syrian Friends” then, to coin its own phrase with respect to Assad, “it should get out of the way.”

–Amb. Marc Ginsberg, “Syria Is Obama’s Srebrenica,” Huffington Post (The Blog), March 28, 2012 .

Tony Badran’s March 22 article, listed above and cited by Ginsberg, provides further details on the change in U.S. position on Syria with regard to options under consideration by Turkey and the Gulf countries. Badran also explains Obama’s aversion to getting invoved, as follows:

The Obama administration’s reasoning is simple. It calculates, rather correctly, that such regional efforts will likely end up drawing the US in down the road, one way or another. President Obama wishes to nip in the bud any possibility of this happening in an election year. And so, such regional moves were opposed in order for the president not to be forced to take action he’s adamantly intent on avoiding, regardless of the consequences.

As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with its own stated policy of regime change in Syria.
–Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon, March 22, 2012.

So, Obama seems to have pulled the rug out from under our allies, and decided to pursue peace in Syria instead by working with the Russians and supporting Kofi Annan’s ill-starred six-point peace program.

A Foreign Policy without a Moral Core

Obama’s actions toward Turkey and the Gulf countries in relation to Syria suggest that there is no moral core at the heart of Obama’s foreign policy.

It should also be noted that a close if unofficial advisor to Hillary Clinton–her husband, Bill Clinton–was himself the author of the U.S. policy that led to Srebrenice.

On Syria, the pattern of U.S. actions toward Iran in 2009, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has been repeated. Absent Security Council authorization, Obama has been unwilling to act or to lead. Obama avoids confrontation like the plague.

Events drive policy, not the reverse.

The Obama administration has shown no moral outrage at Russia’s and China’s support of al-Assad and their working to provide him with more time to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian population to solidify his hold on power. Rather, it’s business as ususal.

With Russia actively supporting al-Assad through the provision of weapons, amunition and training by Russian advisors on the ground in Syria, President Obama had the callous temerity to sit down with Russian President Medvedev at the Seoul nuclear conference last week, in a most cordial manner, and to beseech him to understand that he, Obama, would be able to be more flexible on nuclear arms control negotiations after the November elections.

What was most revealing about the “open microphone” episode in Seoul was that Obama was pleading with the Russians to be understanding and to give him some space on the arms control issue. In short, he was proceeding from a psychological position of weakness, when he should have been insisting publicly that Russia stop its morally indefensible support of al-Assad’s commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Obama seems to be laboring under the illusion that his “reset” of relations with Russia, particularly thorugh his personal relationship with Mededev, has been successful when, quite obviously, the contrary has been the case.

These developments can be understood only by recognizing that Obama when dealing with foreign policy issues thinks primarily in terms of electoral politics and his re-election in November. He delegates foreign policy to others. In fact, he appears much more animated and engaged emotionally on domestic issues. This is consistent with his lack of international interests prior to entering the White House.

For whatever reasons, in the foreign policy area there appear to be no moral values for which he will fight.

When you step back from the daily news and take a broad look at what Obama has done by supporting Kofi Annan’s U.N. peace initiative, and “preferring going through the Russians”, you can see the utter cynicism and lack of morality of the administration’s policy and actions.

What Obama has done, in a word, is to sell the Syrian opposition down the river. He has abandoned them. The highly probable result of pursuing the Annan plan is that great delay will follow before the fighting stops, if it does, and then probably only after thousands of additional lives have been lost.

The U.N. plan is nothing more than a shameless facade behind which the United States can try to hide, while it obstructs those who would otherwise act to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria.

The logical outcome of the U.N. plan is that al-Assad will remain in power, with all the instruments of state terror at his command, to be used if and when and to the extent needed to maintain himself in power. Keeping him in power will ensure the Russians the continued operation of their naval base at Tartus, their listening post for the Middle East, and their arms contracts and other business relationships with the al-Assad regime.

One is reminded of the children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen entitled, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. See the translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Keiserens nye Klæder” by Jean Hersholt.

The Emperor in this case is President Barack Obama. The Emperor has no clothes.

Obama’s foreign policy has no moral core.

The Trenchant Observer


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