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Obama's 'Alice in Wonderland' Syria Strategy

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
June 25, 2013
Foreign Policy

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President Obama's decision to intervene more directly in Syria's civil war by providing limited lethal aid to certain members of the Syrian opposition is a significant foreign policy commitment. It is also a very confused one.

Forget for a moment that the case for Syria's chemical weapons use was based on unverifiable evidence, or that the administration had reportedly decided to arm Syrian rebels before it even had that evidence. Forget that the president himself reportedly does not think arming the rebels will achieve much, that only 11 percent or 20 percent of the American people endorse his decision, that analysts dismiss it as "too little, too late," and that even Capitol Hill supporters believe the move is insufficient. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez stated: "You can't just simply send them a pea shooter against a blunderbuss."

What was most troubling about this latest shift in U.S. policy was the absence of a speech or briefing by the president, or a cabinet official, to clearly articulate why America is deepening its involvement in this Middle East conflict, what U.S. interests are at stake in the civil war, and what strategic objective the United States hopes to achieve. When asked directly about his decision to provide lethal assistance, Obama stated: "I cannot and will not comment on specifics around our programs related to the Syrian opposition."

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