Saturday, June 21, 2014

Straw Man or Men

Barack Obama in an interview with Norah O'Donnell of CBS News bravely takes on his version of what he says is the main source of criticism of his Syria policy -- the meeja:

"I think this notion that somehow there was this ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is simply not true, and, you know, we have spent a lot of time trying to work with a moderate opposition in Syria," the president said in the interview taped Friday. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already captured the Iraq cities of Tikrit and Mosul, and is battling near the capital, Baghdad. The crisis has raised questions about U.S. reticence in Syria last year, when opposition forces - and some members of Congress - were pleading for active engagement and arms support amid mounting evidence that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own civilians. "When you get farmers dentists and folks who have never fought before going up against a ruthless opposition in Assad," Mr. Obama continued, "the notion that they were in a position to suddenly overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy. And I think it's very important for the American people - but maybe more importantly, Washington and the press corps - to understand that."

Two problems with that. First, if some of "few arms" had been anti-aircraft weapons, it would have deterred the barrel-bombing of Aleppo. And second, if he thought it was such a weak opposition, why did the US draw it into the useless Geneva peace talks knowing that Assad was winning on the battlefield and therefore had no incentive to negotiate?

If the moderate opposition was having to argue with extremists who say that Jihad is the only solution, and all they can offer is failed peace talks and a non-response to a chemical weapons attack, then they lose the argument.