By Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer and Ambassador to Morocco
Reviewed by Norvell DeAtkine
This article is particularly timely, not so much because it is about the still festering Syrian tragedy, but because in the light of the Ukrainian crisis it has particular relevance. In an unintended sense, it conveys the international price of perceived American weakness and how it has consequences throughout the world. Ambassador Ginsberg, long identified with the Democratic Party, skewers the Obama approach to Syria in a most uncharacteristic venue, given the ultra-liberal leanings of the Huffington Post.
Referring to the Obama foreign policy record, the author wrote “if there is one reason that encapsulates the endless missteps and miscues it is the battle for the President’s foreign policy soul between the moderate-progressive policy wing and the neo-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party.” Ginsberg verifies the incoherence of the Obama foreign policy-making by reference to Secretary Robert Gates in his epochal book, Duty, in which Gates recorded the unprecedented interference in military affairs by politically oriented operatives in the White House.
In this regard Ginsberg singles out Valerie Jarrett as the chief culprit. To mitigate what Ms. Jarrett and others felt was “ultra-leftist” criticism of Obama’s anti-terrorist policies, she orchestrated an isolationist American policy. As Ginberg wrote: “The mantra from the neo-isolationists and their in-house emissaries [was] stay out and stay home no matter how injurious to long-term U.S. foreign policy interests.” The tug of war among the president’s advisors resulted in what Ginsberg called, “more empty words than coherent action.”
Though Ginsberg does abjure placing culpability on Obama personally, he reiterates the record of Obama failures, including turning his back on Iraq, mismanaging the military takeover in Egypt, allowing the decay of the situation in Libya, advocating no concerted policy toward Iran, and finally following a fatally flawed “reset” policy toward Russia. This summary, written prior to the Ukrainian crisis, is especially prescient. Once again having drawn a rhetorical “red line,” throwing down the gauntlet to an impetuous and megalomaniac Vladimir Putin, followed by a lack of effective action, the Obama foreign policy team has exposed a perceived lack of will on the part of the United States, which may very well be exploited by others, notably Iran and Syria, in the on-going negotiations.
The rest of the article consists of Ginsberg suggesting four ways to take action in Syria, including embracing the humanitarian relief mission more boldly, assisting regional powers, contesting Syrian air supremacy, and working Syrian policy through the General Assembly to bypass the Russian veto in the Security Council. As he wrote none of these may turn the tide but “[i]t can only be better than what we have going now.”