Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Barack Obama Can’t Admit His Syria Strategy Has Failed

Despite being surrounded by policy failures abroad, Barack Obama cannot admit his mistakes.
President Barack Obama’s wide-ranging interview with CBS News journalist Steve Kroft was probing to the point that it was characterized by’s Max Fisher as “oddly confrontational.” The rest of the liberal publication’s review of the interchange could best be described as damage control, and there was quite a bit of damage to mitigate. The president was outwardly bitter and resentful toward his interlocutor, who protested being “filibustered” by the president. Obama had been robbed of the luxury of clarity and concision by his own inept handling of myriad international crises, and it showed. When asked if he thought the world was a safer place, the President of the United States reluctantly conceded that it was not. More concerning, however, was his contention that the United States is somehow safer, even as the rest of the globe descends into chaos. What else could he say? Events have escaped his control. The president is at a loss.
The backdrop of this interview was the increasingly disastrous situation for the United States and its allies in the Middle East. On Friday, the Department of Defense revealed that it was mothballing the ill-fated program of training and equipping indigenous Syrian rebels. That $500 million initiative succeeded only in creating a handful of soldiers, most of which had been killed, captured, or had defected by September. In what was bizarrely characterized as the bright side to this unalloyed defeat for U.S. interests in the region, the president insisted he never really had any faith in that program to begin with.
“I’ve been skeptical from the get go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside of Syria,” the president asserted. “My goal has been to try to test the proposition, can we be able to train and equip a moderate opposition that’s willing to fight ISIL? And what we’ve learned is that as long as Assad remains in power, it is very difficult to get those folks to focus their attention on ISIL.”
It’s a safe bet that the congressional appropriators who assigned half of a billion dollars of taxpayer funds to this overt program (to say nothing of the covert programs to arm and train Syrian rebels exposed only amid their destruction by Russian forces) would have displayed more skepticism if the president had confessed his doubts at the time. Obama’s criticism of this program is rooted in his desire to pursue exculpation. In criticizing the rebel training program, he was also issuing the veiled condemnation of that program’s early advocates: former administration officials like Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, and Hillary Clinton. The president wasn’t offering a cogent alternative to this proposal for the perfectly good reason that it doesn’t exist.

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