Caroline Alexander, at Bloomberg, delivers some bad news about Syria and its civil war:

... President Bashar al-Assad, whose government was last year described as close to collapse by groups ranging from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the armed opposition, may remain in power for years to come.

“The regime is still in place, strong and not going anywhere,” Julien Barnes-Dacey, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. Widespread predictions of his demise reflected an “unwillingness to assess the regime’s strength, wishful thinking, a desire for a swift end, and a failure to recognize this is a civil war.”

This analysis may, of course, prove correct. And, then again, it may not. Experts have, now and then, been wrong in their predictions. But it may not make any difference where American interests are concerned. It seems almost undeniable that the U.S. has crafted a lose/lose policy when it comes to Syria. We oppose the regime ... but only to the point of supplying its opponents with "non-lethal" means of resistance. So, if the opposition should pull off the upset, it will have no reason to feel a special sense of gratitude for this tepid and late arriving support.

If, on the other hand, the regime should hang on ... well, it will know who its friends – and enemies – are, and can be expected to behave accordingly.

U.S. interests seem to be suffering and in retreat all across the region. The Arab Spring has turned to winter in Egypt. The opening that could have been achieved at such pain and expense in Iraq is going away as car bombs explode across the country. Iran has not softened.

So much for that "new beginning" of President Obama's.

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