Commentary Magazine


It’s Not the State Department Duo, It’s the President

The State Department staffers whooping it up in Syria, a reader e-mails me, “have done something unpardonable: taken the actual policy (kissing up to the Syrian regime) and dramatized its true meaning instead of camouflaging it.” Another e-mail: “This is beyond disgraceful. These two ought to be fired, along with their bosses, and their bosses’ bosses.”

And that is really the lesson here. These two staffers are likely headed for the woodshed or the unemployment line, but they frankly did us a service by pulling back the curtain on the policy that Obama fancies and that his minions, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, among others, faithfully execute. Really, how different is this from what John Kerry does? As Lee Smith noted, it is ”an open secret around town that the Massachusetts senator and his wife, Teresa, are enamored of Bashar al-Assad and his stylish first lady, Asma.” In February 2009, Kerry was spouting this rubbish:

“Syria could be, in fact, very helpful in helping to bring about a unity government,” Senator John Kerry told reporters after meeting President Bashar al-Assad.

“If you achieve that, then you have made a major step forward not only in dealing with the problems of Gaza but you have made a major step forward in terms of how you reignite discussions for the two-state solution. … I think that Syria indicated to me a willingness to be helpful in that respect.”

“I believe very deeply that this is an important moment of change, a moment of potential transformation, not just in the relationship between the United States and Syria but in the relationship of the region,” Kerry said. “While we will disagree on some issues for sure, what I heard and what I will take back with me and hopefully what we could put in place to take advantage of it, is the possibility of real cooperation on a number of different issues beginning immediately, beginning soon.”

And it was Obama who nominated Robert Ford and wanted (still does?) to send him to Damascus to show Assad that there is nothing to be lost and much to be gained by aggression toward Israel and by domestic repression. Recall too that Ford’s nomination came one day after “top State Department official William Burns went to Syria as part of Washington’s efforts to expand dialogue with Damascus on ‘all aspects’ of a strained relationship.”

So it’s not merely that this latest visit is “idiotic.” It’s that the entire approach to Syria – which throws bouquet after bouquet at the feet of Assad, to be greeted with scorn and contempt — is. After nearly 18 months of the fawn-a-thon, Assad is embracing Ahmadinejad in public news conferences, continuing to brutalize his own people, and testing U.S. resolve on enforcing UN Resolution 1701.

The two State Department staffers will get their comeuppance. When will the rest of the administration?