Charlie Rose last night asked President Obama his new Syria policy. The president first objected to it being called a new policy. "I'm not sure you can characterize this as a new policy. This is consistent with the policy that I've had throughout," he said.
Obama then explained the goal is regional stability, and especially in Syria. "Really, what we're trying to do is take sides against extremists of all sorts and in favor of people who are in favor of moderation, tolerance, representative government, and over the long-term, stability and prosperity for the people of Syria," said Obama.
And after a little back-and-forth, Rose said to Obama, "So you think a no fly zone is not necessary?"
Obama, the transcript suggests, seemed to think Rose wasn't getting it. "What I’m saying is, that if you haven’t been in the Situation Room, poring through intelligence and meeting directly with our military folks and asking, what are all our options, and examining what are all the consequences, and understanding that for example, if you set up a no-fly zone, that you may not be actually solving the problem on the zone," he said. "Or if you set up a humanitarian corridor, are you in fact committed not only to stopping aircraft from going that corridor, but also missiles? And if so, does that mean that you then have to take out the armaments in Damascus and are you prepared then to bomb Damascus? And what happens if there’s civilian casualties. And have we mapped all of the chemical weapons facilities inside of Syria to make sure that we don’t drop a bomb on a chemical weapons facility that ends up then dispersing chemical weapons and killing civilians, which is exactly what we’re trying to prevent. Unless you’ve been involved in those conversations, then it’s kind of hard for you to understand that the complexity of the situation and how we have to not rush into one more war in the Middle East. And we've got --"
Rose then interrupted, "So that's why people think you haven't, because you do not want to get involved in another conflict, having extricated the United States from Iraq and also soon from Afghanistan."
"Charlie, I --" Obama tried, before being cut off again.
"And the idea of another conflict and getting involved in a war that had real significant Sunni-Shia implications and could explode into the region, you want no part of that, even though there has been a turn in the tide in Syria with the Assad regime and the Assad army, with the help of Hezbollah, doing better."
Obama explained, "Yeah, Charlie, that shouldn't just be my concern, that should be everybody's concern, you know. We went through that. We know what it's like to rush into a war in the Middle East without having thought it through. And there are elements within the Middle East who see this entirely through the prism of a Shia-Sunni conflict and want the United States to simply take the side of the Sunnis. And that I do not think serves American institutes. As I said before, the distinction I make is between extremists and those who are recognized in a 21st century world that the way the Middle East is going to succeed is when you have governments that meet the aspirations of their people, that are tolerant, that are not sectarian. And working through that is something that we have to do in deliberate fashion. So when I hear debates out there, on the one hand, folks saying, you know, 'Katie, bar the door, let's just go in and knock out Syria' --"
"They're not asking that," Rose contended.