Streetwise Professor

January 4, 2014

The Wages of Fecklessness

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Uncategorized — The Professor @ 10:32 pm

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration has put any additions to the Magnitsky List on hold.  The administration has always disliked the list, because it didn’t want it to interfere with its fabulous Reset.  It resisted the list for as long as it could, and then grudgingly implemented Congress’s directive.

The desire to appease Russia is disturbing.  But I could see a realpolitik justification for slow walking it now.  Putin and the Russian elite hate the list.  Hate, hate, hate.  We could presumably extract something tangible, something highly advantageous to US interests.

The sad thing is that the administration thinks it has:

Why veto the expanded Magnitsky list? Russia’s human-rights record hasn’t miraculously improved. In his interview with Itar-Tass, Mr. Rhodes suggested the answer. He praised Moscow’s role in striking a deal with Syria’s Bashar Assad to give up his chemical weapons stockpile in return for removing any Western threat to attack his military forces, who are now liberated to try to finish off the rebels. Mr. Rhodes also noted Russian support for nuclear talks with Iran.

For crying out loud.  Seriously.  It got nothing from Putin.  Putin has played us like a drum on Syria, and is content to watch us give away the store to Iran.

Obama was desperate to avoid having to cash the check his big mouth wrote (“redline”) in Syria.  Putin bailed out Obama, and has achieved all of his objectives in Syria.  The chemical weapons deal leaves Assad in power, and effectively makes the United States his partner.  So Syrians won’t be killed by chemical weapons.  Yay! They are just continuing to die, at a rate of about 150 a day, felled by barrel bombs, bullets, artillery bombardments and the blades of ISIS head choppers.  The country has descended into a hell of warlordism akin to China in the ’20s and ’30s, with the government holding sway in a rump state near the coast and a horrifying collection of Islamist groups (with ISIS being the most horrific) controlling patches of territory in the north and east.  The war is spreading into Lebanon, which is seeing a major car bombing a week.  The country is a running sore, and will continue to be for years to come.  No one has the strength to prevail, so things will be stalemated for the foreseeable future.

And Putin doesn’t care.  Every Chechen that goes to Syria on jihad is one less that he has to deal with in the Caucasus.  And every one that is killed is just a bonus.  His client survives.  The United States looks pitiful.

All in all, a big win for Putin, and a loss for the US.  We didn’t get anything on Syria for forbearing on Magnitsky: we gave Putin everything he wanted.

And on Iran, Obama doesn’t need Putin’s help.  Obama is evidently willing to make any concession to get a deal with the mullahs.

In sum: Obama got bupkus for caving on the Magnitsky List.

Back to Syria.  The WSJ ran a long story detailing the sorry, sorry tale of American policy.  Read the whole thing, but it is readily summarized.  The administration wanted nothing to do with Syria, but didn’t have the stones to says publicly.  It gave out aid to the rebels in penny packets to appease frantic allies appealing for American support.  The result: the aforementioned stalemate in which the most radical and bloodthirsty survive. I cannot think of a comparable example of American fecklessness in the 226 years of the history of the Republic.

Obama’s reluctance to get involved in Syria is understandable.  There was no easy choice.  But the administration made the worst choice of the lousy ones available.  A robust intervention on behalf of the rebels would have probably resulted in their victory, with an outcome similar to the final scenes of Lawrence of Arabia, with squabbling rebels and tribes making a hash of things in Damascus.  But that would have been better than the current and future situation, with Islamist warlords ranging from the psychotic to the extremely psychotic face off against one another and the remnants of a blood-soaked Baathist regime.

By trying not to choose, Obama made a choice.  Millions of Syrians-and Lebanese-are paying the price.  Such are the wages of fecklessness.

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