The United States and Syria: Incoherent policy

The Daily Star is one of a handful of outstanding English-language newspapers in the Middle East, and does not have an anti-Western bias. When it criticizes the United States, or Europe, its comments are directed at policies. The following editorial consequently merits close attention, because its caustic judgments come from writers who live in the vortex of events in the region and yet are not ill-disposed to the United States as a country.


Editorial, “Incoherent policy,” Yhe Daily Star, July 17, 2013 (12:43 AM).

The editorial is cogent, and makes its telling points in a few words:

Over the last two years, many have waited with bated breath over U.S. foreign policy in the region, and where exactly it was headed. But now it appears that all along there was no grand plan, and it is precisely as haphazard and shortsighted as it has seemed since the start of the Arab Spring.

Where once it seemed as if the American vagueness was based on calm and reasoned wisdom, a pragmatic approach gained after decades of experiences and learning in the Middle East, it now appears that its foreign policy, or lack thereof, actually stems from a gross misunderstanding of events on the ground.

This policy wavering would be a luxury if it were not for the thousands of lives being lost in the region, 5,000 a month in Syria alone, the U.N. said Tuesday. On this issue, the U.S. has flagrantly procrastinated and dithered….American “support” for the opposition, which transpires as little more than words, is perhaps more harmful to the rebels, and civilians than Russian arms handed to the regime.

This same tangled foreign policy approach has been witnessed in Egypt, where, three weeks after the ousting of Mursi and the U.S. still appears as lost and befuddled as ever, clearly not knowing what to do or who to ally with….

The only good that can come from this confused and incoherent policy is that now the veil has been removed. The people of this region can see the U.S. for what it is, and while the election of President Barack Obama once seemed to symbolize a future full of hope for the Middle East, his presidencies now stand for a nightmare.

These are words worth reflecting on and which call for taking urgent remedial action.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.