Mosque in Damascus. Will De Freitas/Flickr

America’s Syria Non-Policy

Russia’s bold entry into Syria’s civil war could well end badly for its leadership. But just as Russia might lose for going in, the US could lose for staying out – or, more specifically, for failing to design, much less pursue, a coherent, goal-oriented policy in the country.

DENVER – Russia’s bold entry into Syria’s civil war could end badly for its leadership. But in the Middle East, everyone can lose nowadays. Just as Russia might lose for going in, the United States could lose for staying out – or, more specifically, for failing to design, much less pursue, a coherent, goal-oriented policy in the country.

For better or worse, Russian policy in Syria reflects not just a goal, but also a real strategy aimed at achieving it – a strategy that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently advanced by meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for talks in Moscow. Now that Russia has knocked at least some of Assad’s enemies on their heels, the Kremlin has decided that the time has come to discuss forthcoming political arrangements – or, perhaps more accurately, the time has come to tell Assad what will happen next.

Unfortunately, US President Barack Obama’s policy lacks the same cohesion. To be sure, much of the criticism that his administration’s foreign-policy choices – for example, the decision to stay out of Syria – reflect weakness or indecision is inaccurate. Such accusations do not reflect reality so much as the tendency – which has intensified during the ongoing US presidential campaign – to use Obama as a scapegoat for the world’s problems.

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