The notion that we’re failing in Syria is just about the only thing both parties can agree on these days.
In a recent interview for her MSNBC show, Andrea Mitchell went after a US State Department official on our flawed approach to dealing with Syrian President Assad and, by extension, the Russian government that backs him. The only response Mitchell received: “we need to give diplomacy a chance.”
But we’ve already given diplomacy a chance. And it has failed.
That isn’t to say that the diplomatic route is finished, but the administration’s approach to dealing with these dangerous men is clearly flawed.
In a closed-door meeting with 15 Congressmen, John Kerry admitted that the peace talks have failed and it’s now time to arm the moderate opposition.
According to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was in the meeting, “[Kerry] acknowledged that the chemical weapons [plan] is being slow rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy. He openly talked about supporting arming the rebels. He openly talked about forming a coalition against al Qaeda because it’s a direct threat.” It should be noted that a Kerry spokesman has since denied that Kerry wants to supply weapons, but hasn’t disputed anything else that was said in the meeting and reported to the media.
Nevertheless, consider the fact that just over a week earlier, Kerry took the stage in Davos to say that he was “perplexed” by the claim that the US is disengaging from the world.
And that in President Obama’s State of the Union address in late January, he argued that, “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.”
It has now come to light that Syria’s chemical weapons aren’t being eliminated – Kerry has said himself that Assad is failing to uphold his promise to give up his weapons according to schedule. And the Russians are certainly of no use in persuading him to do so.
But it has to be the kind of pressure that doesn’t come in the form of rhetoric. Assad doesn’t care what we say. And Putin definitely doesn’t.
Applying pressure is the only way to achieve positive results.
There is no substitute for what Hillary Clinton called “coercive diplomacy,” or what might be called muscular multilateralism: American efforts, sometimes in concert with others, to defend our interest and principles around the world.
There is no substitute for American engagement. “Leading from behind” just doesn’t cut it. And “leading from behind” is exactly what we have been doing from the start in Syria.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Putin is pulling all the strings in geopolitics today. We are all waiting to see what will happen as the Olympics kick off in Sochi, but I can assure you that whether or not it’s a success – which I hope it will be – Putin will not stop supporting those that oppose the US, our way of life and our values.
We tried the diplomatic route and it failed. It’s time for a new spin on diplomacy.