Alex Rose

For this alone…

Max Boot is a military historian and foreign-policy analyst who has been called one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict” by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was born in Moscow, grew up in LA and now lives in NY City. Boot has advised military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan; whose books have been assigned reading by the military services. Some credits:

NY Times: “A master historian”
Wall Street Journal: “A penetrating writer and thinker”
Philadelphia Enquirer; “Not only an excellent historian, but also an excellent writer”
World Affairs Councils: “One of 500 most influential Americans in foreign policy”

On October 14, 2016, Commentary published Max Boot’s “Cleaning up Obama’s Syria Mess, an ambitious plan to fight both Bashar al-Assad, and ISIS is now our best hope.” What follows is an extraction of some of the most salient points, rather than a review of this superior article. It is an exposure to the “moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Obama administration’s approach” to the conflict. One which Boot regards as the greatest strategic and humanitarian disaster of the 21st century. To him, the failure of the “peace plan” contrived by John Kerry and Russia’s Serge Lavrov on September 10, 2016, the second in the year was predictable. A so-called cease-fire for Syria, supposedly a breakthrough for diplomacy, it collapsed within an hour of its implementation.

Wherever Obama is involved one finds a pattern of ineffectiveness. Obama and Kerry are noted for empty verbiage without action. Obama’s claim to fame extends to red lines which never become a reality.
Following the commencement of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed and a larger perhaps unknown injured. Yet, a further 11 million people have been forced out of their homes, including 4.8 million who have been driven to flee the country. The war has caused more than half of Syria’s prewar population of 22 million people into refugees or fatalities. The Syrian war has created a breeding ground for extremist organizations, the two most notorious being ISIS and the Syria Conquest Front [formerly the Al Nusra Front, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria].

The consequence of Obama’s inactivity has resulted in the Bashar al-Assad regime being able to maintain power with the assistance of Hezbollah and other Iranian-controlled Shiite militias who play an increasingly prominent role in government- held areas. Russia on the other hand has through its actions in Syria, assumed its largest role in the Middle East since the height of the Cold War. To think that Obama’s misjudgment has been so vast as to eliminate Libya’s Kaddafi as opposed to expelling the Assad regime, is frightening. Thanks to Obama and his useful idiots, Hillary Clinton and Kerry, we are witnessing ISIS as a magnet for jihadists from all over the world, some of whom have already returned to their countries of origin to commit acts of terrorism.

Resulting from an error on behalf of the US command center, US war planes accidentally bombed Syrian government forces in Deir al-Zour province. The Obama’s administration rushed to apologized for bombing Assad’s forces, which have become notorious for dropping ‘barrel bombs’ on civilian neighborhoods, torturing prisoners, and starving rebel-held towns.”

The tragedy was magnified with the bombing of humanitarian aid convoys, deaths and the striking of a hospital – presumably carried out by two Russian Su-24 jets based in Latakia, Syria. Embarrassingly, one is forced to question how Kerry reacted to this breach of agreement on behalf of “his negotiating partner.” Not until two weeks later when the Syrian government forces were resuming their full -scale assault on Aleppo did he call off his ill-fated talks with Lavtov i.e. when 250,000 civilians, including 100,000 children, remained trapped there. Russia aircraft was able to drop incendiaries, cluster munitions, and even giant “bunker buster” bombs on homes and hospitals, killing and maiming at random.

At the time, US aircraft were flying over Syria and could have been used to ground Assad’s air force with threats to destroying any Syrian airplanes on takeoff or while on the ground. It would not have been difficult for the U.S. to act to impede, and even stop, the Assad war machine, at scant risk to American lives. U.S. aircraft, which were already flying over Syria, could have grounded Assad’s air force. Threats to destroy any Syrian airplanes on take off or by destroying them on the ground would have been possible. This effort to impede or stop the Assad war machine was distinctly possible “at scant risk to American lives.” Why had the US not taken such steps asks Max Boot. His answer was that the responsibility for this inaction rested ” with one man—Barack Obama. It will forever mar his legacy.”

In August 2011, President Obama said: “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Yet another veiled threat as the president rejected suggestions early on to impose a no-fly zone to ground Assad’s air force and to set up “safe zones” where rebels could organize and civilians could live without the fear of attack. Not only that he also rejected suggestions, including a detailed plan put forward by Petraeus in the summer of 2012, to train and arm the Syrian opposition to overthrow Assad. “If such action had been taken, there likely would have been no outflow of refugees to destabilize neighboring states—and extremist organizations such as ISIS might never have come into existence.”

In typical fashion,” rather than trying to address the underlying cause of the conflict—the determination of Assad to hang on to power at all costs—Obama dithered and acted around the edges”. In August 2012, he announced that the U.S. would not take any military action unless ‘we start seeing movement on the chemical-weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.’ That, he said, in words that would come back to haunt him, would be a ‘red line for us.’

However, rather than bomb Assad, he reached a deal with him and his Russian sponsors. This meant an Assad agreement to voluntarily give up his chemical weapons in return for a promise from the U.S. not to attack him. “Assad did—but not all of them”. As recently as September 2016, there have been reports of the regime attacking civilians with poison gas.’ I’m very proud of this moment,’ Obama later told Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic. “He’s the only one”

The rest of the world saw this as ” a devastating demonstration of irresolution that empowered the Assad killing machine and did incalculable harm to American credibility in ways that echo far beyond the Levant.” The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, told Goldberg: ‘By not intervening early, we have created a monster. We were absolutely certain that the U.S. administration would say yes. Working with the Americans, we had already seen the targets. It was a great surprise. If we had bombed as was planned, I think things would be different today.’
Bashar Assad himself testified, inadvertently, to how much damage was caused by Obama’s refusal to act; ‘American officials—they say something in the morning and they do the opposite in the evening,——-.You cannot take them at their word, to be frank. We don’t listen to their statements, we don’t care about it, we don’t believe it.’

Max Boot reflects, “If the U.S. continues to do little, the conflict will continue to spiral out of control, destroying more lives inside Syria and spewing conflict and instability far beyond its frontiers.” In addition thereto, ” A decisive victory by a U.S.-backed army of Syrians [rebels] would force all parties to the negotiating table and give the United States the leverage to broker a power-sharing arrangement among the competing factions.”

Boot sums up his wonderful essay with thoughts on Obama’s concerns for risks other than the loss of American causalities:

[1] Sunni extremist groups taking over after Assad’s overthrow, a danger reinforced by the chaos that engulfed Libya after Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster

[2]. The risk of alienating Assad’s supporters in Tehran. Obama saw a nuclear accord with Iran as his most cherished goal and he feared that action against Assad would make it impossible to reach a deal—or, now, to maintain a deal.

[3] The danger of confrontation with Russia, which had injected its forces into the conflict in a successful attempt to reverse an erosion of Assad’s power.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon reports in his book The Iran Wars that Iran explicitly threatened to pull out of the nuclear talks if Obama bombed Assad. Since the Iran deal can only be regarded as a farce, a threat of this nature hardly adds up to much. Agreements, treaties, truces etc. are always a function of trust. The west trusted Arafat, some even Hitler and Stalin, only to the peril of the world. The leaders of Iran are from different. That Obama and his European associates were willing to entertain an agreement with the leaders of Iran, one which has so many shortfalls speaks volumes. That Iran can continue to support Hamas and Hezbollah, competing with ISSIS as world leaders of terrorism is unbelievable, but regretfully true. And did anyone realize Iran’s freedom in subcontracting to Korea that which is forbidden according to the Iran deal?

Obama has created a vastly greater mess for his successor than George W. Bush left him with in Iraq—which had been a mess until Petraeus under Bush’s guidance turned the war around with the “surge” and all but won it.

For this alone, how can one seriously consider the Democrat presidential contender Hillary Clinton whose offering is simply that of another 4 years [as a minimum] of the Obama era?

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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