Right Wing Nut House


Syria and Obama’s ‘Lead from Behind’ Doctrine

Filed under: Ethics, FrontPage.Com, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:52 am

You don’t have to advocate for military intervention to be terribly disturbed by our Syrian policy these last few months. The UN report detailing what’s been going on in Assad’s charnel house shows the moral bankruptcy of a policy that isn’t predicated on preventing civilian deaths but rather the cynical notion that the rest of the world hates us because we can be too aggressive in standing up for what we believe is right.

That is the essence of a “lead from behind” foreign policy. I might add that there is nothing inherently wrong with such a policy. The last 2 decades of American nation building and military intervention actually recommends that we walk a little softer and are more cognizant of the interests of other nations.

But events in Syria demanded we go it alone if necessary. And I don’t think we would have. History has shown that America can make a difference in bringing the rest of the world around to a specific moral position if we take the lead. Besides, the administration explanation that it took time to line up support for Assad’s ouster rings hollow and borders on fabrication. As I point out in my latest at FPM, the administration dilly dallied for 5 long months before even beginning the process of lining up support in the international  community to demand Assad step down. Then, it took less than two weeks to do so:

Why did it take so long? When the protests started in March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying, “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” The administration believed at the time that the protests would put pressure on the Syrian dictator to initiate changes in Syrian political society, forcing him to open a dialogue with the opposition.

This attitude turned out to be a product of wishful thinking rather than reasoned analysis. No sooner had Clinton made that curious statement did Assad begin his butchery. It wasn’t until late April that the administration issued its first set of sanctions against the Syrian regime. The second set, targeting Assad and his cronies, came two weeks later. It was shortly after that, on May 19, that Obama delivered his speech on the so-called Arab Spring, saying, “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

Still short of calling for the Syrian strongman’s ouster, it wasn’t until July that Hillary Clinton claimed that Assad had “lost legitimacy.” This milquetoast statement by the administration stood until the beginning of this month — after 1,500 Syrians had already been massacred — when the US finally began to gather international support for Assad’s resignation.

Much has been made of the statement by an Obama national security staffer in a New Yorker article that the president was “leading from behind” on the Libya issue. The statement encompasses the worldview of the president and most of his advisers, who believe that the status of the United States as the only superpower in the world is detrimental to international relations and that we should be “first among equals” when it comes to building coalitions and consensus on world issues.

Clearly, our actions relating to Syria is another example of that policy. Rather than getting out in front of events and trying to influence them, the administration hung back, watching to see if other nations would take the lead in advocating what is clearly the moral course of action: putting pressure on Assad to leave. That it took five torturous months with Syrian tanks blasting their way into dozens of cities and towns killing thousands does not speak well of the “lead from behind” policy nor the president who oversees it. Obama’s statement roused analyst Michael Ledeen to write, “After months of slaughter, as jaws dropped all over what used to be called The Western World at the spectacle of an American leader who danced all around one of the clearest moral and strategic imperatives EVER, we finally get this [statement].”

Decline by choice? I think there’s something to that. As I’ve said on numerous occasions on this site, if America didn’t exist, the international community would have to invent us. We are a convenient whipping boy, as well as being a tremendous force  - perhaps the only force in the world - for selfless good. Nobody thinks it unusual when we send aircraft carriers to the sites of natural disasters, saving thousands of lives. And while the world might frown on us taking out a dictator like Saddam, or unredeemed mountebanks like the Taliban, they always leave a small place in their hearts where they cheer us on.

No, we shouldn’t take out a thug like Assad with our military. But our actions can create the conditions where he cannot survive in power. Yesterday, the administration finally took the first step toward that goal. That thousands of innocent Syrians died before they managed to rouse themselves and reach that conclusion is a moral failing.

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