To summarize, the Obama policy shows three characteristics that have wider implications for the president’s strategies. It favors Islamist enemies; it “leads from behind” by giving the initiative to those who wish America no good; and it shows no interest in helping genuinely pro-American moderates who are fighting for their lives.
And that, friends, is why I spend so much time bashing Obama’s Middle East policy, because it is so very bad and dangerous.
Now a possible explanation for all of this would be that Obama doesn’t really want to do anything about Syria for other reasons. The United States doesn’t want to get dragged into direct intervention; it’s a lower-priority issue; there’s no great policy option; and his only concern is the American election.
But so what? It’s still possible to come up with a better policy than this, a policy that would make Obama look good as well as serve U.S. interests. He could call for Assad’s overthrow; back truly moderate oppositionists; subvert Islamist influence; and send arms and money, but only to the moderates. In order to portray himself as decisive, heroic, and a friend of democracy, Obama could take every possible overt and covert opportunity to weaken Assad, even helping at a low cost to create a no-fly zone and safe havens. None of this is going to happen.
Instead, though, he turns over dealing with the opposition to an Islamist regime in Turkey and subcontracts dealing with the regime to a pro-regime Russian government. I’d say that Obama’s policy in the region could not easily be worse but who knows what’s next, especially if there’s a second term?