Monday, April 26, 2010

I Admit It, I'm As Confused As Obama Is!

The title of Josh Rogin's post to his blog, The Cable, sounds ominous: Obama team works to head off new Mideast war amid confusion about Syrian intentions--and confused they are:
The administration is still not clear that any SCUDs have been transferred, but there is an acknowledgement that Syrian weapons transfers are increasing in both quantity and quality.

"It's a deterrence game and each side is building up its deterrence capability," this official said, adding that as both the Israelis and Hezbollah prepare for war, the seriousness of any actual outbreak of fighting is keeping both sides from initiating battle -- for now.
Beyond the questions surrounding Syria's transferring weapons, there is the larger confusion as to why Syria just isn't being more helpful:
As for why Syria seems to be playing such an unhelpful role, "that's the million-dollar question," the official said. The Obama administration genuinely does not understand Syrian intentions and there are three basic theories within the administration as to why Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would continue to escalate arms shipments to Hezbollah despite U.S. warnings.

..."We do not understand Syrian intentions. No one does, and until we get to that question we can never get to the root of the problem," the official said. "Until then it's all damage control."
The issue gets even sillier as the White House tries to patiently explain to the Syrians--who continue to get away with exacerbating the situation--why they should stop doing what they are doing so successfully:

Meanwhile, the administration is trying to explain to the Syrians how foolish the weapons transfers are, if they are really happening, while telling the Israelis to be patient and arguing that the only beneficiary of a new Israeli-Hezbollah war would be Iran, which would seize upon a new conflict to deflect international pressure over its nuclear program.
If the question about Syrian motivations is really that deep and inscrutable, I don't know if the Obama administration is really going to be up to the job of figuring them out. Actually, I must admit I'm kind of confused as to why the Obama administration is confused. Syria has been like this for decades, just as US administrations during those decades have tried to reason and negotiate with them. Unsuccessfully.

Lee Smith, author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, discussing the mistaken US policy towards Syria:
The fact that the United States spent more than a decade trying to cajole Damascus would have been bad enough had it only been a waste of American money, time, and prestige. What made the U.S. efforts even more problematic was that by trying so hard to work with the Syrians, American policy makers had effectively encouraged terrorism. The reason they were so intent on working with Syria, after all, was that they believed the Syrians had the ability to spoil peace efforts in the region. That sent a clear message: the easiest way to get the attention of world leaders and prove that you are indispensable to peacemaking is by killing people. To be sure, American policy makers sought to frame it differently, and tried to come up with explanations for why Syria, given the right carrot, would stop sponsoring violence throughout the region. But in doing so, the United States ended up, as it so often has in recent decades, excusing those who make violence their initial response to anything that offends them, and legitimizing terrorism.[emphasis added]
Now Syria has the Obama administration tied up in knots, sitting back and scratching their head, wondering why Syria does not realize the mistake they are making--rather than taking action that will demonstrate to Syria why they are making a mistake. They have accepted the premise that Syria is influential, and that Syria itself can be influenced to change its policy. In the meantime, Syria continues to demonstrate its importance in the region by kicking sand in Obama's face--encouraging more head-scratching from the US as they try to figure Syria out.

I suppose if the White House had its way, it would have demanded that Israel hold back and not destroy Syria's reactor, while the US explained to Syria why building the reactor was such a mistake.

Actually, that is basically the attitude that the US--and the West--took with Iran.
And we've all seen how well that went.

Smith writes in an article:
The reality is rather more consequential than the phony argument over Syria policy would suggest. The issue is finally about terrorism, which is not the work of shadowy networks hiding in caves and rogue operators whose grievances about the end of the Ottoman caliphate and the plight of the Palestinians can be soothed by an American public diplomacy campaign. This is a fiction, and the truth could not be any clearer. As Syrian support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and a host of other organizations shows, Islamic terrorism is how Middle Eastern regimes fight for their strategic interests. If we let Syria off the hook for its proven acts of terror against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, as well as U.S. allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have all but announced that in the event of future attacks on the U.S. homeland we will never retaliate against the states without which so-called stateless terrorist organizations cannot exist. We will have effectively disabled any deterrence we have against our adversaries and make our cities vulnerable to anyone who can lie his way past the Transportation Security Administration.

Obama’s public diplomacy is premised on the notion of reaching out to the Muslim masses and encouraging moderate streams of Islam, a strategy that is incongruous with a diplomacy that also reaches out to Muslim states that not only breed and support extremism but also arm it to kill Americans.
Unfortunately, it is not clear that the Obama administration sees the danger.

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