Even as we make necessary immediate choices – including arming the Syrian rebels – we must insist upon inclusive politics. The US cannot afford to stand aside; regional powers will bring their own agendas that could exacerbate confessional divisions.
There is no explanation why arming the Syrian rebels is “necessary.” Like the U.S. ability to “insist” on inclusive politics in someone else’s country where the U.S. has no influence, this is one of many things that is simply asserted. What if arming Syrian rebels is incompatible with an “inclusive politics”? Which one does Rice give priority? Fueling an armed insurgency that could lead to even more sectarian violence, or encouraging “the creation of inclusive democratic institutions”? Perhaps the latter isn’t possible, but if so that is something that proponents of fueling sectarian violence should acknowledge. They shouldn’t be able to drop references to funneling weapons to rebels drawn overwhelmingly from one community in the same breath that they talk about building institutions that bridge sectarian divides.
Much of Rice’s op-ed could have been lifted from one of Romney’s stump speeches. This is someone that a frightening number of people still think could provide foreign policy advice to Romney, so it’s worth remembering that she often simply echoes Romney when he is at his worst. For instance, Rice wrote:
The decision to abandon missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, to “reset” relations with Russia was pocketed by Vladimir Putin who quickly returned to his anti-American ways.
In fact, cancelling missile defense installations that most Poles and Czechs didn’t want was a good move for the U.S. regardless of the effect it had on the relationship with Russia. Improving relations with Russia was an added bonus that allowed for increased cooperation on a limited number of issues. Russia so quickly returned to its “anti-American ways” that it agreed in principle to joint missile defense with NATO at Lisbon, allowed its territory to be used for supplying the war in Afghanistan, supported the last round of U.N. sanctions on Iran, and even abstained on UNSCR 1973 against Moscow’s better judgment. Rice is particularly ill-suited to criticize current Russia policy, since her tenure as Secretary of State was marked by the most significant deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations in twenty years.