Note: The opinions and comments stated in the following article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
The horrific humanitarian disaster following the fall of the Syrian city of Aleppo to murderous forces has not gone unnoticed. This event received worldwide condemnation.
Noting the death of Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, President Barack Obama said, “In the face of evil, we must summon our capacity for good. In the face of hate, we must love. In the face of cruelty, we must live with empathy and compassion. We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering. Just imagine the peace and justice that would be possible in our world if we all lived a little more like Elie Wiesel.”
For all his eloquence, President Obama failed to live up to his words with regard to Syria. He said we must not become bystanders to injustice and suffering, but this is precisely what we are doing in Syria today. The U.S. is virtually a bystander, pushed aside by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia, Iran and Turkey Discuss the Syrian Conflict
Even now, Russia, Iran and Turkey are meeting in Moscow to discuss how they can end the Syrian civil war. They are the very same countries that have contributed to the death and misery of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. The one notable country omitted from this meeting is the United States.
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department press spokesman John Kirby took questions about this meeting from the press. Reporters wanted to know whether Secretary of State John Kerry views the gathering as a snub to the U.S.
Kirby responded, “We certainly knew what was going on. And look, I mean, I don’t know the degree to which we were consulted in terms of the agenda for today. I don’t suspect that we were [told about the agenda] in any great detail.”
Turkish, Russian and Iranian Ministers’ Meetings Not Secret
But Kerry did get direct readouts from both Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, so it’s not like the meeting was held in secret. The Secretary didn’t take it as a snub, Kirby said. “Again, he welcomes any kind of effort, whether it’s bilateral or multilateral, that can get us to a better outcome.”
It’s unclear to me: What kind of “better outcome” is expected from the very same countries that participated in this humanitarian disaster?
The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has left over 500,000 dead and millions of refugees displaced from their homes. Obama chastised Syria Russia and Iran for their participation in the slaughter and issued only flowery rhetoric, while he did nothing to prevent the humanitarian calamity in Syria.
Obama Will Hand Trump a Foreign Policy in Disarray
When Obama hands the power of the presidency to Donald Trump, he will be handing him a foreign policy in disarray.
Obama came into office on the mantra of changing U.S. foreign policy. He even told his adversaries in his first inaugural address that “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Obama entered the White House to fundamentally alter decades of U.S. foreign policy. Both Republican and Democratic presidents understood the central leadership role the United States plays in the global system.
In his final press conference of the year last Friday, Obama said, “Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.” This statement is rooted more in rhetoric than in facts.
Instead of ending two wars, as Obama pledged to do during his presidential campaigns, he now leaves the U.S. military engaged in five Middle Eastern conflicts.
Trump Must Deal with Military Operations in the Middle East
After he officially takes office, Trump must cope with military operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria. That leaves him very few tenable options to deal with the Syrian civil war and ISIS.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has simply re-calibrated U.S. foreign policy by allowing nefarious actors to fill a power vacuum. Russia and Iran were glad to fill the void.
Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of the U.S. retrenchment. First, Russia annexed the Crimea and then behaved more aggressively in eastern Ukraine.
US Lack of Action Harms Middle East Peace Efforts
No region of the world has suffered more from U.S. disengagement than the Middle East. The next president is left with fewer choices following the removal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq and Obama’s lack of interest in cementing the gains made there.
Also, Obama did not heed the intelligence community’s warnings of the threat posed by ISIS. Obama’s slow approach and mishandling of the “Arab Spring” revolution have also contributed to the Syrian situation.
Once the Syrian civil war began, Obama said on numerous occasions that “It’s time for Assad to go.” But he gave no indication of how this would be accomplished.
When Obama issued his famous “red line” ultimatum that there would be military action if Syrian forces used chemical weapons, Assad called his bluff and Obama took back his threat of military action.
Even France was prepared to join the attack to destroy Assad’s air force and disable airfields. France’s willingness to fight would have prevented Assad from utilizing barrel bombs against his own people.
Similarly, military action would have obstructed Moscow from utilizing Syrian airfields when the Russian military joined the civil war in 2015 to save Syria’s leader from collapse.
Crisis Situations in Multiple Countries Demands Action from Trump
Trump will have a disintegrating humanitarian crisis in Syria, a semi-failed state in Iraq and the further deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. There is also the collapse of Yemen and a failed state in Libya. Further compounding the situation is an aggressive Iran, which continues to pursue its goal of regional domination of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Chinese leaders have kept an eye on Obama’s foreign policy. Beijing concluded that China can also be aggressive with little resistance from the United States.
For example, take China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea and its recent seizure of a U.S. underwater drone. Even though China returned the drone to U.S. authorities, President Obama’s muted response surprised our regional allies.
Despite the president’s remarks that “We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering,” the result of his inaction is now playing out inside Syria.
Roots In The Military. Relevant To All.
American Military University (AMU) is proud to be the #1 provider of higher education to the U.S. military, based on FY 2018 DoD tuition assistance data, as reported by Military Times, 2019. At AMU, you’ll find instructors who are former leaders in the military, national security, and the public sector who bring their field-tested skills and strategies into the online classroom. And we work to keep our curriculum and content relevant to help you stay ahead of industry trends. Join the 64,000 U.S. military men and women earning degrees at American Military University.