Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Syria Engagement, or How America Loses Its Soul

As I remarked earlier this week, the Obami’s Syrian engagement policy aligns with their overall approach to foreign policy: fruitless ingratiation with despots, disregard for human rights, and predictable (horrible) results. Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Adviser, recounts the series of unilateral gestures and offerings that the Obami have served up to Syria – from sending high-level envoys to appointing a new ambassador to removing U.S. objections to Syria joining the WTO. On and on it has gone as the Obama administration has tried to wean Bashar al-Assad from the embrace of the Iranian regime. But this was doomed to fail:

“Engagement” constitutes “appeasement” if it fails to change Syrian conduct, and the failure to change is overlooked while the “engagement” continues and accelerates. This would not just be fooling ourselves but condoning, rewarding, and thereby inducing even more bad conduct by the Assad regime. Which is precisely what has happened during this year of American engagement.

So Syria continues to fund terrorists, to assist Iran in rearming Hezbollah, and to brutalize its own people. Moreover, as we saw this week, Syria delights in hugging the Iranian regime even tighter and whacking the U.S. ever harder — just in case we had any doubt about the Syrians’ contempt for our approach. It seems the Obami misread Assad, not recognizing that he is “a vicious dictator dependent on Iran’s regime for political, financial, and military support” and fantasizing that there is a peace deal with Israel in the offing.

Enough already, Abrams suggests. Stop the engagement, speak out on human rights, and bring to the UN Syria’s violations of Security Council resolutions on Lebanon’s sovereignty and the arming of Hezbollah. That’s frankly wise advice for how we should reorient our entire foreign policy — on the Middle East, Cuba, Russia, China, North Korea, and the rest. The suck-uppery to despots hasn’t worked. Unilateral moves beget bad behavior, not reciprocity. Selling out human-rights advocates erodes our moral standing. And the Middle East in particular grows more unstable as tyrants get the notion that the U.S. can be played. So we should insist on reciprocity in our diplomatic moves, stand up for democracy and human rights, take seriously despots’ violations of international agreements, and refuse to explain away or excuse the misbehavior of bad actors.

We were supposed to get smart diplomacy with the Obami, and instead we got diplomacy that is both amoral and counterproductive. As with so much else that has gone wrong in this administration, the collision of hubris and extreme ideology has been painful to watch.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.