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Obama doesn’t want voters to think he’s indifferent. So he creates the APB in order to show that he is doing something; but it is also something that Assad and Ahmadinejad can easily ignore. Even with the best of intentions and impressive names and the imprimatur of our President, it is obvious to even the most naïf that boards and committees and NGOs do not stop men with guns. So no harm is done to Obama’s plans to avoid confrontation with Iran and to maintain good relations with Russia, good relations being needed for reasons that Obama does not want to reveal until after his re-election.
In fact, Obama has worked hard over the past year or so to make sure that he can continue to avoid confrontation while maintaining plausible deniability. First, the Syrian opposition was deemed too fragmented, so how could Obama know whom to back? Then, the White House warned the opposition not to take up weapons, lest it forfeit the moral high ground that Secretary Clinton claimed it had captured. Then there was the problem of al-Qaeda infiltrating the Syrian rebels’ ranks; but Obama failed to note that it was Assad who first made common cause with al-Qaeda, causing Obama no consternation. And now, with his new APB, Obama has created plausible deniability for his inaction, even though it means losing an opportunity to advance American vital interests by helping to bring down Iran’s chief regional ally.
And perhaps worst of all, Obama’s endorsement of the doomed Annan initiative means that the US position is effectively the same as Moscow’s. The White House has even told its own allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, not to arm the opposition, thus aligning the USA with the Russians.
So the Iranians continue working on a nuclear bomb, and the White House warns Israel against bombing the reactors where the bomb is being made. Bashar al-Assad continues to kill Syrian civilians with Russian weapons and Iranian money, and Obama warns our allies not to interfere and aligns us with Russia and Iran; and just to make sure that no one thinks he is soft, our President unleashes — an advisory board.
As Sen. John McCain recently observed, “… good bureaucratic organization may be necessary to stop mass atrocities and gross human rights abuses, but it is not sufficient. Ultimately, ending violations of conscience requires the political will and moral courage of world leaders, especially the President of the United States. Unfortunately, that will and leadership are lacking in the case of Syria today.”
[i] For good summaries of the problems and contradictions in Obama’s Syrian policy see “Syria: It’s Not Just About Freedom“; “While Syria Burns“; “What’s Wrong with Having an Atrocities Czar?“; and “The Spirit of Kellogg-Briand.”
[ii] Special acknowledgement to Dick Nelson, USNA ’64, for part of this analysis.
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