Obama and arming the Syrian rebels

Article Highlights

  • Military leader, DoD leader, SecState all supported arming the rebels. Who didn’t? Barack Obama

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  • US has both moral and strategic interests in seeing moderate and secular forces in Syria

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Yesterday, both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and outgoing SecDef Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they supported arming the rebels in Syria. We also know that Hillary Clinton supported doing the same. So…let’s get this straight. Military leader, DoD leader, SecState all supported arming the rebels. Who didn’t? Barack Obama and his coterie in the White House.

Now, that’s perfectly legitimate. The national security team works for and at the pleasure of the president of the United States. He is free to heed or dismiss their counsel. Having done so, however, we must clearly understand that the fiasco that is the war in Syria is Obama’s and Obama’s alone.

Remember, no one suggested “boots on the ground” in Syria; no one wanted US forces involved except possibly for the purpose of guaranteeing safe corridors. The only thing that those of us who argued for arming the rebels believed was that the United States is a better arbiter of good guy vs bad guy among the rebels than Gulf leaders; that subcontracting to others when in our interest is the right call; that the surest blow to Iran would be to depose Bashar al Assad; and that the United States has both moral and strategic interests in seeing moderate and secular forces in Syria empowered and in charge in Damascus.

Now, none of this will happen. 80,000+ people are dead. Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have established a beachhead in Syria. The protracted war and the aftermath are likely to destabilize a NATO ally (Turkey), an Arab leader (Jordan’s Abdullah), Lebanon, Iraq, and the Israeli-Syrian border. The future of Syria post-Assad is in question. And who owns this epic disaster? Barack Obama. Perhaps he should have listened to wiser counsel. Instead, he has searched for less independent thinkers to fill the ranks of his national security team. To paraphrase from the Good Book, it is clear that an unwise man will ignore and refuse learning, and a man without understanding will attain foolish counsel. Indeed.

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About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.


    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


     


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    Email: dpletka@aei.org
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