When the subject of the Assad regime in Syria came up in the presidential debate on foreign policy, President Obama declared: “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. … We are mobilizing humanitarian support, and support for the opposition. And we are making sure that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term [emphasis mine]…”
By my rough count, those are two not-necessarily-overlapping projects. We support the “opposition” — but only those elements of the opposition that will be friendly to U.S. interests in the long term. As it’s become increasingly clear that those elements, if such exist, have yet to coalesce in any meaningful way, this is proving a tricky two-step for the Obama administration.
A headline yesterday in the New York Times spoke volumes — “As Fighting Rages, Clinton Seeks New Syrian Opposition”. Apparently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had it up to here with the Syrian National Council, the Turkey-based opposition group whose members Clinton described as “people who have many good attributes, but have, in many instances, have not been inside Syria for 20, 30, or 40 years.”
The Times report continues:
The Obama administration has been exasperated for months with the anemic leadership and constant bickering of the council, which is often far more caught up in fighting over spots on travel delegations than in creating an effective transitional government. It failed to attract significant representation from minority groups, including the Alawites who dominate Syria as well as the Christians or the Kurds. Its obscure academics and long-exiled activists also seem increasingly irrelevant in a civil war in which extremist jihadis are gaining more visibility.
The Obama State Department’s conundrum in Syria calls to mind the left-wing dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s immortal sardonic advice for a Communist regime facing hungry East Berliners in 1953: “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”
Of course we can’t simply “elect” a new Syrian opposition. But we’re going to conjure a brand new one that combines the worldliness of the aging exiles with the energy and authenticity of the rebels on the ground. Oh, and Mitt Romney is completely on board.
What could go wrong?