Regardless of what anyone believes is the “right approach” to the issues we now face with Syria, one thing that cannot be ignored is our country’s contributions to placing itself in such a dire situation. To be very clear, this article is in no way a personal belief on what actions the United States should take with regards to our current dealings with Syria. Rather, it serves as an observation of the failed diplomatic processes that have escalated hostility with yet another Middle Eastern country. It also attempts (as it should) to hold the Obama Administration accountable for its actions, a responsibility it tends to shirk. So here we go.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the United States in this Syria crossroads is the involvement of external countries like Iran and Russia who have expressed their overwhelming interest in backing the current Syrian government. When President Obama elected to put off intensive diplomatic relations with Russia until after his election, he placed the U.S. in a position of indifference to Russian influence in the world. If the President had shown Mr. Putin “a little more backbone” as certain past Republican candidates had suggested, the Russian, and indeed, the global perspective on American diplomatic relations would have been vastly different; an America that remains strong in its principles, strong in its opposition to tyranny despite personal wants prospers and demands respect of other nations.
By rolling over and accepting global influences on issues that should not be compromised, President Obama sent a message of weakness that is hard to reverse. It has become evident (although it should have been prior to the conundrum we now face) that simply cancelling a summit meeting with the Russian President isn’t enough to convince him, a former KGB agent, that we mean business. Had we been unwavering in our beliefs prior to our issue of foreign entanglements in Syria, perhaps Putin would have thought twice about backing Assad. However, the President showed himself to be weak, and he was thus branded as such. Until his actions prove him to be otherwise, U.S. diplomatic relations will be at the whim of whomever chooses to control the situation.
However, it’s not just our issues with Russia that have placed us in a poor position with regards to action in Syria. The President’s handling of the U.S. embassy attacks in Benghazi, Libya demonstrated an astounding lack of interest in both the security of American citizens as well as their knowledge of foreign attacks. American diplomatic policy has been surrounded in scandal inside our own country, and as such, Putin, President Rouhani in Iran, and other global leaders have no need to take us seriously. This brings in to question how Obama plans on playing tough with them if he refused to do so in regards to an actual attack on Americans in Libya.
Furthermore, Iran has had a troubling nuclear program for some time. Whether it’s gathering weapons-grade Uranium or, most recently, Plutonium, Iran represents a growing threat to our allies in Israel, the Middle East in general, and now with its backing of Syria, to the West. Again, had the previous actions of the administration demonstrated some sort of intolerance for such activity rather than waiting for, as Jay Carney put it “an opportunity for Iran to act quickly”, this situation would have been far less severe.
With Russia and Iran backing Syria, regardless of the path we now decide to take as a nation, the United States is in a situation much more hostile and ominous than was necessary. Our options now, rather than involvement and abstinence, are angering two powerful enemies (who have reason to doubt our capabilities as a nation with a weak executive) by becoming involved, and abstaining until the human rights violations in Syria reach epic enough proportions that abstinence is no longer an option. Regardless of future decisions, the Obama Administration’s horrendous track-record with diplomacy has made a tough situation harder.
Conner Dwinell | Hillsdale College | @ConnerDwinell