Jackson Diehl believes that not ordering military intervention in Syria is Obama’s “greatest failure”:
For the past three months, Obama’s policy has become a negative: He is simply opposed to any use of U.S. power. Fixed on his campaign slogan that “the tide of war is receding” in the Middle East, Obama claims that intervention would only make the conflict worse — and then watches as it spreads to NATO ally Turkey and draws in hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters.
Notice that Diehl doesn’t even attempt to engage with this claim. There is good reason to believe that a U.S.-led or U.S.-backed military intervention in Syria would make the conflict worse. Would Al Qaeda and other similar groups not exploit direct Western intervention in an Arab and predominantly Muslim country? Diehl must be kidding if he expects us to believe that. Of course they would. Diehl doesn’t define what he means by intervention, so it’s difficult to know what policy Obama ought to be adopting that he hasn’t.
No less important than making the Syrian conflict worse, direct armed intervention would involve the U.S. committing itself to a new unnecessary war at some significant cost and the possible loss of American and allied lives. As terrible as the Syrian conflict has been and continues to be, yielding to the impulse to intervene militarily would compound all of the evils that Syrians are suffering. Diehl would have the U.S. wage another disastrous war for regime change on the border of the same country, Turkey, whose people have come to loathe America in large part because of the consequences of the last disastrous war for regime change in Iraq.
According to a recent Turkish opinion survey, 58% of Turks are opposed to war with Syria even as part of a NATO operation. For their part, NATO members want no part of a Syrian war, and opposition within Turkey to a unilateral Turkish war against Syria is even higher (76%). Diehl is calling for the U.S. to wage a war that the most important allied government in the area could not help wage without committing political suicide at home. So neither Turkey nor NATO would be in a position to support U.S. action if it were to happen.
Even more than in Libya, the U.S. would be acting virtually alone in Syria if it intervened. Regional opinion would be strongly against such action, and so would American public opinion. It would be the height of political folly for any administration to lead a military intervention in Syria, and it would also be the wrong policy for the U.S., its allies and clients, and Syria. Opting not to drag the U.S. into another unnecessary war can hardly be called a failure.