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Syria and America’s Reputation

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Edward Luce repeats a very tired argument about the consequences of not attacking Syria in 2013:

The impact of his prevarication continues to influence the actions of others from Moscow to Riyadh. Mr Obama’s bluff was called and he wobbled. It is hard to overstate how much damage that did to America’s reputation.

It’s actually quite easy to overstate how much damage was done, and like many others before him Luce overstates the damage. Bear in mind that Luce wants us to believe that America’s reputation has been harmed by refusing to bomb another country illegally. The U.S. had no authority to bomb Syria in 2013, and if it had gone through with the threatened action it would have meant waging war on the Syrian government to the benefit of ISIS and other jihadists. Russia would not have been overawed or impressed by yet another Western attack on a client regime, but would have been predictably outraged by the latest Western bombing campaign. The U.S. would have reconfirmed that its answer is to bomb without thinking through the consequences of military action, and that would have shored up its reputation for foreign policy incompetence. Not following through on his foolish “red line” in Syria has been one of the few things Obama did right in the last three years. Syria would be no better off if he had carried out the threat, and it would likely be in even worse shape, as would America’s reputation.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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