Is Obama responsible for the mess in Syria? | The Tylt
Is Obama responsible for the mess in Syria?
Following the Assad regime's devastating sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians, Trump blamed Obama for failing to ensure Assad no longer had chemical weapons. Obama was the one who drew the red line in the sand and he should be the one who's ultimately held responsible for failing to prevent another atrocity. Critics of the former president say it was Obama who decided against the advice of his advisers to arm moderate rebels, and the efforts he put in place were largely ineffective.
"I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand," Trump said at the White House. "And when he didn't cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat. I think it was something that was not one of our better days as a country."
Foreign policy experts defend Obama by arguing there are no good options in Syria. Trump is largely following Obama's playbook in Syria, despite the more fiery rhetoric. Besides, don't forget that Obama tried to take action against ISIS, but Congress denied permission to strike.
The reality of Syria is that there is very little the U.S. can do without committing large numbers of troops on the ground. Arming rebel groups could fuel a sectarian war that would inevitably erupt in the power vacuum left by Assad. Most of our allies in the region prefer Assad over that option. There's no good answer, only varying degrees of bad choices.
The idea that President Obama could have stopped the bleeding or now has the capacity or obligation to put the Syrian Humpty Dumpty back together is not only wrongheaded; it ignores a number of all too inconvenient realities.
Finally, there’s little doubt that U.S. policy in Syria has been feckless and too risk-averse. The chorus of Assad must go; the non-enforcement of the red line on chemical weapons; the lapsed and wasted training program, and acquiescing in Russia’s air strikes all hurt Washington’s believability on Syria.
But instead of attributing these failures to some amorphous abdication of leadership or appeasement, the administration’s dysfunction flows more from the absence of good options, limited leverage and painful choices.