What Does America’s Syrian Policy Really Mean?
With respect to foreign policy, political pundits are gnashing their teeth. Hawks and Trump supporters are calling President Obama a failed President and possessing no leadership. And any unbiased observer would call Secretary of State Kerry’s negotiations with Russia juvenile. Yet,everyday that passes means more deaths and destruction in Syria.
Republicans and Donald Trump blame ISIS and the Syrian insurgency upon President Obama’s feckless foreign policy. Had the US not pulled out of Iraq, the story goes, ISIS would never have formed. (At least Trump is honest enough to recognize that had George W Bush not invaded and occupied Iraq, the Syrian-Iraq power vacuum would not have arose.) But is the blame game useful?
Lost in the war of accusations is President Obama’s Syrian policy explanation. President Obama, and at least some of his advisers, are versed in 1600 years of Middle East history. Obama and his advisors recognize that outside military force is akin to trying to shut off a boiling tea pot by taping up the kettle’s spout. This may work for a moment but the boiling water will continue to generate steam until the pot explodes.
President Obama’s Middle East policy calls for the leading Middle East countries to band together and solve these disputes politically. Said differently, until the wealth is shared far more equitably with the common person, those seeking power and wealth will find the populous only too ready to follow promises of a better way.
Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two big elephants in the room, would prefer peace but not at any expense which might destabilize their own worlds. So for the time being, Saudi Arabia and Iran see a small war as preferred.
So given this perspective, why should American lives be spent?
There are many American foreign policy experts who would prefer a limited but far stronger response than President Obama has authorized. Most of President Obama’s critics, however, are pure politicians who neither know what’s sensible or are ready to be held accountable when a more aggressive Syrian policy goes astray. What Americans hear or read about Syria is pure political mumbo-jumbo.
Hillary Clinton’s Syria strategy leans “forward” according to former NSA Director Michael Hayden, meaning she would support a greater but still limited US involvement. For example Clinton has backed designating “no fly” zones where the US would use its military to protect Syrians on the ground. At best, however, no fly zones would allow more time for the Syrian regime to make peace with the insurgents. At the present time, President Assad seems to have no such interest.
There is another, possibly more important, aspect to President Obama’s Middle East policy. While the GOP has been sleeping, the world has evolved and the Middle East is not the most important region. Far more interest needs to be shown to China and its world goals, and to Russia and what would it do if Putin died or his economic policies failed.
Russia and China are single party States and practices we take for granted like free speech, rule by law, and democratic principles do not apply the same in China and Russia. America’s Middle East foreign policy must consider future potential Russian or Chinese actions too.
The world conditions upon which America’s 21st century foreign policy must be build does not lend itself easily to 10 second sound bites. Great difficulty will face either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
One can be sure, however, that Trumps’s “one-off” proposals will lead no where, and his “I’m tough” style will not fly either. Of voters’ choices, Hillary Clinton brings depth and breadth of thinking which might have a chance.
Building a “wall” does not even make the radar screen on foreign policy.