5:44 PM, Sep 8, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Over the weekend, the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt argued that Syria may be “the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.”
Hiatt contends that Obama managed to convince the American public that doing nothing was “the smart and moral policy.” The way Obama sees it, the United States causes more problems than it solves, and besides there wasn’t much we could do anyway by backing a bunch of rag-tag rebels against Assad and his allies.
And, writes Hiatt:
On those rare occasions when political pressure or the horrors of Syrian suffering threatened to overwhelm any excuse for inaction, he promised action, in statements or White House leaks: training for the opposition, a safe zone on the Turkish border. Once public attention moved on, the plans were abandoned or scaled back to meaningless proportions (training 50 soldiers per year, no action on the Turkish border).
Hiatt also singles out two administration officials who previously advocated for military intervention on behalf of humanitarian principles and have now shown themselves to be hypocrites. “The fact that the woman who wrote the book on genocide, Samantha Power, and the woman who campaigned to bomb Sudan to save the people of Darfur, Susan Rice, could apparently in good conscience stay on as U.N. ambassador and national security adviser, respectively, lent further moral credibility to U.S. abdication.”
But the singularly gruesome achievement, argues Hiatt, is “the anesthetization of U.S. opinion”: Obama made Americans feel good about doing nothing—nothing to help bring down Assad, nothing to support Syrian rebels, nothing to prevent the rise of ISIS, and now nothing to stem the tide of refugees.
It’s a devastating article, and I’d only add to Hiatt’s argument that there is another component to Obama’s Syria policy. Obama decided to steer clear of the Syrian conflict not just to avoid doing anything, but just as importantly, to avoid damaging Iranian interests in Syria. As Obama wrote Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, “the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.” Obama didn’t do anything to bring down Assad because he was afraid it might anger the Syrian president’s patrons in Iran, and getting a nuclear deal with Iran was Obama’s foreign policy priority.
There is plenty that Obama might have done to support Syrian rebels— an opposition he derided as “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists”—without ever risking putting American forces on the ground in Syria. By 2013, all his national security cabinet officials—Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, et al.—argued for supporting Syrian rebel units.
Obama however kept his eyes on the prize: the Iran deal. Same when it came to enforcing the red line he drew against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. No one in their right mind believes that firing missiles on Assad regime facilities was likely to compel the White House to land forces in Syria. Obama’s concern rather was that if the United States signaled that it was no longer protecting Assad it might turn the balance of power against the Syrian regime. But that of course would anger the Iranians, and all Obama wanted was an accommodation with the regime—and now he has one in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
2:23 PM, May 16, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
After nearly two days of editing, then CIA director David Petraeus was sent the revised Benghazi talking points on September 15, 2012. He was less than impressed, to put it mildly.
8:48 AM, Nov 23, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, a key figure in the scandal that brought down CIA director Gen. David Petraeus, received the "country’s second-highest honor for a civilian," according to the New York Post. The honor was awarded because of the socialite's “selfless contributions” and “willingness to host engagements.”
2:35 PM, Nov 16, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Jill Kelly, the Tampa socialite that was instrumental in bringing down CIA director David Petraeus, visited the White House three times over the course of the last year, numerous reports reveal. Kelley's most recent visit was November 4, 2012, two days before President Barack Obama was reelected to a second term.
Hosted by Michael Graham.11:11 AM, Nov 16, 2012 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Bill Kristol, hosted by Michael Graham:
7:48 AM, Nov 16, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
David Petraeus is going to tell members of Congress that he "knew almost immediately after the September 11th attack, that the group Ansar al Sharia, the al Qaeda sympathizing group in Libya was responsible for the attacks," CNN reports.
In his closed door meeting on the Hill, "[Petraeus] will also say he had his own talking points separate from U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. [Hers] came from somewhere other in the administration than his direct talking points," Barbara Starr of CNN reports, referencing a source close to Petraeus.
The former CIA director will move to further himself from comments that didn't accurately characterize the terror attack that Rice made 5 days after on national television shows.
"When he looks at what Susan Rice said," CNN reports, "here is what Petraeus's take is, according to my source. Petraeus developed some talking points laying it all out. those talking points as always were approved by the intelligence community. But then he sees Susan Rice make her statements and he sees input from other areas of the administration. Petraeus -- it is believed -- will tell the committee he is not certain where Susan Rice got all of her information."
9:31 AM, Nov 15, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
At yesterday’s press conference, Chuck Todd of NBC News asked, “Are you withholding judgment on whether you should have known sooner that there was a potential — that there was an investigation into whether your CIA director — potentially there was a national security breach with your CIA director? Do you believe you should have known sooner, or are you withholding judgment until the investigation is complete on that front?”
7:36 AM, Nov 14, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Bill Kristol, with A.B. Stoddard, Mara Liasson, and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
12:15 PM, Nov 13, 2012 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Bill Kristol, hosted by Michael Graham:
10:51 AM, Nov 13, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
ABC's Denver affiliate is coming under fire for accidentally running a phony cover of Paula Broadwell's biography of General David Petraeus. The cover read, All Up In My Snatch. The real book title is All In.
6:48 AM, Nov 13, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
"The FBI probe into the sex scandal that prompted CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S.
5:57 PM, Nov 12, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seemed not to have extensive knowledge of the Petraeus affair when talking to the press earlier today on board a flight to Australia.
1:03 PM, Nov 12, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Over the weekend, New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who was just reelected, sat for a Sunday interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. They discussed the Petraeus affair, the looming fiscal cliff, and the clean-up after Hurricane Sandy.
But Menendez was not asked about the allegations he faces regarding his own sex scandal.