By Fareed Zakaria
The Obama administration's decision to seek $500 million to train and fund moderate elements of the Syrian opposition has been greeted with bipartisan support in Washington. The general consensus is that if the administration had done three years ago what it is doing now, the situation in Syria would not have turned into a bloody sectarian civil war.
But almost all elements of this conventional wisdom are wrong. The administration is caving in to the classic Washington desire to "do something" in the face of a terrible tragedy without any clear sense as to whether it has the ability to improve things or to make matters worse…
…The complexity of Washington's task can be seen in the American attitude towards ISIS. When the group battles the al-Maliki government in Iraq, it is a deadly foe of the United States and must be ruthlessly attacked. But when it crosses the now non-existent border between Iraq and Syria and battles the al-Assad regime, it’s aligned with America's stated goal of regime change in Damascus.
With this whole history of sectarian conflict in mind, it’s difficult to believe that three years ago a modest American intervention of arms and training, which is all that was being advocated, would have changed the trajectory of events in Syria.
Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column
We should mind our own business. Every intervention we have undertaken here has been an expensive fiasco devouring lives and treasure. Enough. We need to stay the hell out.
Good posting, ncmathsadist. Yes, we are only aggravating the situation in the Middle East and this sorely needs to stop!!!
I totally agree. A decade ago we (and the world) were totally dependent on their oil and we had to be involved to secure an energy supply. From everything I've been reading, we are now self sufficient in regards to oil so we can now afford to let the middle east sort things out for themselves. I wish world historians would take to the press and talk about how many times US foreign policy had made things worse, not better.
Just a minute ED4. "From everything you've been reading, we are now self-sufficient in regards to oil?" Are you serious? I'm sorry. You're seriously, seriously, misinformed on that one. We are not, and have never been "self-sufficient" on oil, which is why we're still the world's largest buyer of oil, followed by China. If OPEC doubled the price of oil, I'm confident that will demonstrate that little bit of economics to you. You need to research that a little bit better.
I totally agree @ Fareed!!! Our government has not learned a damn thing from their previous mistakes!
Many of the fires now burning in the ME are direct results of our interference in their affairs. Haven't we seen already what our contribution to regime change has done ? Iraq, Action: Removal of the stabilizing factor. Result : Country tearing itself apart. Libya, Action : Removal of the stabilizing factor. Result : Country tearing itself apart. Egypt, Action : Removal of the stabilizing factor. Result : Country tearing itself apart.
Now we are talking about direct assistance to the "moderate elements" of the Syrian resistance. Do we "really" know the who's who over there ? These people talk a good game, but when it get's down to the facts, It is their own agenda they are following to reach those means. Though I feel bad for the innocents that are caught in the middle, other than humanitarian assistance, we need to stay the hell out of it. We've already done enough damage in that part of the world.
There are no moderate elements in the middle east – once they get in power they will turn on us immediately.
Too bad for the children but the middle east is a total failure because of it's crazy religion and we can't change that.
It's their culture and the way things get twisted that are dooming them to repeat the same path, not the religion. Christianity has just as many dark spots, and just as much blood on it's hands. The world would be such a better place if everyone could learn religion has it's time and place, but it can also be set aside when it matters. The bloodiest wars in history have all been based on one form of religion or another.
WWII, the bloodiest war in the history of mankind, was not "based on religion." It had to do with empires and extremist leaders desiring expansionism and global conquest. It had religious undertones, such as the Nazis attempting to exterminate the Jews, but that was not the primary cause of it. It was simply something Hitler thought he could do in the midst of his conquest.
Shaggsfate you sound like an islamic apologist. Christianity may have had issues in the past but they went through a Reformation and stopped being a violent tool of state many, many centuries ago. Islam is still fighting each other and remains comitted to the destruction of all infidels. Its time for Islam's Reformation.
By the way, religious wars pale when compared to Pol Pot, Chinese purges and Stalin's reign of terror. You do not speak facts.
We need to send Sarah Palin to the Middle East to negotiate. She'll wear her high black boots and her red Chick-fil-A t-shirt. Her experience with Russia makes her the most qualified.
She will bring to the negotiations a jumbo, sugar filled soft drink with a bendy straw and a large platter of her famous s'mores.
She should take Michelle Bachman with her to help them "Pray their problems away". Then they both can spout the GOP Mantra: "TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!"...and.... "GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!".
Better yet, dust off Hillary's big red Reset button. It worked so swimmingly well with the Russians....
Okay, and one more bone to pick. The current request from the president for the funding of rebels to overthrow a government a half a world away is receiving wide spread support, no strings attached. The presidents request for funds to battle the influx of illegal immigrants, which by the way is one of the things they're dogging him about, is being loaded with conditions. What is wrong with this picture ?
What is more important, protection of our homeland, or getting directly involved in yet another civil war/regime change ?
Think about it for a second. 500 mil to train rebels. 3.7 bil for the current immifration crisis. I nkow lawyers are expensive, but come on now. Where is that 3.7 bil going to wind up ? I'd give the Pres enough to hire judges to give the kids a day in court, feed them, then put them on a plane back to where they came from. Message is out. Your"re going back, so don't try to gt here that way anymore
It must be nice to think of 500 million as pocket change to invest in an area that the majority of American people no longer want to support. Remember our arming and training of the Taliban when Russia was in Afghanistan ? Yeah, that worked out well. Remember our arming of the Iraqis when they were fighting Iran ? Yeah, that worked out well too. The point is, I would much rather see large expenditures of our tax dollars on something that will benefit the US and not sticking it into something that is going to come back and bite us in the rear, again.
Actualy some truth this time. There realy is nothing to do over there but get in middle of a bloodbath thats been going on for centuries. They can come up with ingenious ways to kill off each other without any money or help from us. I know! How bout shipping all the illegal aliens over there! Tell them AFTER you wipe out the threat. The survivors will be given US citizenship! Take care of 2 problems at same time..!!
Then we should send your ignorant self over that way too right? As well as all the other bigoted people in America? By your logic we'd kill about 10 to 12 problems with one stone that way.
We need to stop the territorial greed and focus on our own power! The Arab nations are filthy rich...let them settle their on issues. The Arabs are building and expanding, modernizing and we keep keep wasting money on nothing! We need to get powerful by investing in our own country!
The Arabs Kings and Leaders are sitting high on the hog while we send our troops to fight for their issues! Let Allah take care of them if they are sure he exist!
Something that I've, as well as many others on here, have been advocating forever. This is their backyard, let them clean it up. While we send our own into the pit, the Arab leaders laugh at us for doing what they should have done long ago. So in essence, we have been paying them to do their chores.
Where is Allah in all this? If there is a Allah how can he not stabilize the Middle East? The Arabs are willing to die for Allah, but they cannot trust in him to bring peace? Dumbfounded !
" Dumbfounded " is not a word Sarah Palin takes lightly !!
The Arabs are willing to die for Allah but Allah has no such will that these people die for him.
What's Allah doing for Middle East? He can do nothing. The supreme court of a muslim country had declared that Allah is not God and vice versa. Alah is not god according to Malaysian high tribunal.
We need to stop arming anyone. The moderates that we arm end up joining IS and then fight us again in Iraq. Let Russia, Iran and Syria take care of IS. We need our government to spend our money here in USA.
well, at this point, the fire is so hot, that even trying to smother it with a blanket would result in the blanket catching fire and just being more fuel. We definitely do Not want to send more military tech into the area. The weapons we deliver are not being defended. The national forces strip off uniforms, and run screaming from defendable positions.
Why would we put caches of weapons there? If anything it would just provide more strategic targets for the aggressors, allowing for displays of 'victory' and prolong their influence of success. Without those goals, and leaving them to swill in their stink for awhile, the brutality of their actions may come back to haunt them from the locale.
But then again, we do need to keep signing them 100,000 weapon orders I suppose. 🙁
" ...a modest American intervention of arms and training, which is all that was being advocated, would have changed the trajectory of events in Syria."
Just like a "modest intervention" made all the difference in Iraq too!
Add to that, vietnam, cambodia, laos, afghanistan, Libya,....................................
Fareed, how many sides of the middle east are you going to take? I understand that you need to shove your nose further up the nether regions of the administration, but now you flip? So what is YOUR agenda really? Or does the wind carry you?
He doesn't have a position. He just asks banal questions because he is paid to. None of these pundits have any skin in the game. They just write stuff to stir things up, pocket huge wages and go back to the suburbs in the evening. All the media are bloodsuckers.
How do we know who the good guys are? Better to stay out of it.
Do we support the Sunnis who are on the same sid as Al Qaeda and hate us or the Shiites who side with Hezbollah and hate us? If we had listened to John McCain and provided these people with shoulder fired missiles, they would be being used on American helicopters trying to protect American interests at the Embassy.
We do not belong in Syria. We should not intrude ourselves into the middle of a religious sectarian war that has been going on since 632 A.D. Let the Muslim world sort out its own disagreements without the waste of American blood or treasure.
"The administration is caving in to the classic Washington desire to "do something" in the face of a terrible tragedy without any clear sense as to whether it has the ability to improve things or to make matters worse…"
Too true Fareed, too true.
This is a big gripe against the current GOP and Democrat establishments. They both have lost their marbles always trying to do something and more often than not they only make the problem worse.
One would think after reviewing late 20th Century US history and the history of the 21st Century so far that our elites would learn better than to fund, train, and arm Rebel groups which somehow always have an uncanny knack for backstabbing us. You really cannot get too much lower than arming the same insurrectionsits that will be attacking your own children when they get the chance.
Reminds me of the saying we peasants have about the government around here;
"If it makes sense the government won't do it. If it doesn't make sense the government will support it whole-heartedly."
I disagree when I normally agree with much Fareed Zakarai says. The Assad regime was focusing more on the FSA (moderates) than it was on ISIS.
Assad let ISIS grow into what it is now because he figured things would work politically for him if the only remaining rebel group was as bad as his dictatorship.
And one of Assad's allies-Iran- helped ISIS grow by pushing the current Iraqi government into pushing out Sunni leaders-leaving ISIS as one of their few options.
Some of ISIS's progress in Syria came from pushing other rebels off lands Assad already had lost control of.
These rebels faced a 2 front war and may not have before, late aid can be better than never.
give that $500m to Assad instead and let him finish off both FSA and ISIS on his territory... much wiser investment
Im quite surprised Obama is willing to fall for what is clearly a set up by the DC warmongers! And when its all over and the US is AGAIN the bad guys it will all be Obamas fault!
This is absolutely pouring more fuel on the out of control blaze that is the Near and Middle East. There is plenty of blame to go around regarding the current state of this region, but this Administration has only made things worse. Congress does not execute foreign policy, the Executive branch does this. The disjointed US foreign policy has destabilized the entire region. A very complex part of the global to deal with, but completely walking away isn't in our long-term interest. But, neither is arming Syrian rebels...ISIS.
Humanitarian Aid only! We did enough damage arming and funding the Syrian rebels the 1st time and obviously havent learned anything from that error.
Wouldn't it be nice if just one time they would listen to the voices of the people ? We've gone in there and opened the gates of hell all over the ME. And I'm sure the majority of their people in those lands feel as we do about the future of our families. Unfortunately, it's the innocents that suffer the most.
Give the public the names of the people that voted for this plan so we can turf them out next election
We, the US, need to stay out of it. If there is $500mil laying around, doing nothing... then use it to help people here.
It's only a century later next month, and a new powder keg is brewin....
Is the U.S.throwing fuel on the Middle East fire? You bet!!!
Zakaria should not be allowed to comment on foreign affairs.
CNN has Bob Baer and Fred Burton at their disposal and we should use them.
"Zakaria should not be allowed to comment on foreign affairs"
Two years ago Zakaria was talking about Syria's regime end game, about Syria being a land locked country....and other things that absolutely did not make sense. His prognosis of events did not come true at all. You bet, Zakaria should not be allowed to talk about things that above his head. It amazes me that CNN is still having him on a pay roll.
Absolutely driven by the West in an attempt to save their beloved dollars. But, BRICS will win the battle and the war. Germany and others will side with BRICS.
Why even ask the question? Anyone who hasn't buried their head in the sand since oil was discovered in the Middle East knows the U.S. as well as Russia have been pouring weapons there. Even now, the "Iron Dome" funded by the US is protecting the Israelis while the Palestinians are getting slaughtered. Unfortunately, the Republicans in congress are all too happy to satisfy the billionaire weapon manufacturers by adding more fuel to the fire.
Ferhat: How is this just a Republican in congress issue? Democrats are part of this too. Seems disingenuous.
Palestinians are dying because they choose to attack Israel instead of choosing peace.
The President is the one who will ultimately make this decision. Will it be OK then?
Retired Military: While the POTUS has been reluctant in Middle East intervention from the start, the Republicans have been crying for some sort of intervention (whether it's arming the Syrian rebels or doing military strikes). For example, John McCain has made it his civic duty to make that a reality. He literally preaches intervention on a daily basis. While there may be a few Democrats who side with the Republicans, I'd hardly call it an even number. Historically, it was Republicans who have always wanted intervention in the ME. This is the reasoning behind my rant against the Republicans. It's no secret that they get most of their funding from these huge corporations who have a stake in military hardware.
As for the Palestinians, I have to once again disagree with you. It is Hamas that chooses to attack Israel, not the Palestinians. Unfortunately, it is the Palestinians that Israel is punishing instead. So far the number of civilians dead is close to 200. How many Israelis died from the pathetic Hamas rocket attacks? The Hamas rocket attacks hardly pose a threat to Israel due to the US funded Iron Dome. This happens every 2 or 3 years. A few Israelis get killed, followed by hundreds of Palestinian deaths in what most people refer to as "Occupied Territory", because that is what it is. Palestinians have no freedom there. They must live under constant Israeli threat of "Targeted" military strikes killing civilians and destroying mosques that they have no defense for (unlike the Israeli Iron Dome). Why can't the Israeli gov't grant them their independence? Give them back their lands? Instead they play around with Pandora's box.
Ferhat: The POTUS has been reluctant to lead and this is mixed with incompetence.
Sen McCain is but one voice. Dems get just as much campaign support ($$) from the same corporate groups, it's a matter of record.
Hamas uses innocents as shields. Not the Israelis' fault. War is hell and that is terrible. But, Israel cannot sit by and allow their citizens to be killed. The US would not tolerate rocket attacks from Mexico or Canada. Palestinians are not blameless in all of this and it is not just Hamas. The Palestinians need to make a choice. Tolerate Hamas or work for peace with Israel. As long as Palestinians tolerate Hamas, and the other groups hell bent on destroying Israel, they will continue to die. Why should Israel return land? That worked very well for Israel with Gaza. The Palestinians took over and destroyed the the farms and infrastructure the Israelis built there. They use this land as launching pads for their rockets that terrorize and kill innocents – unacceptable. This is not occupied territory. You know the history of the 1967 six day war. We cannot selectively apply the term "occupied territory". If we did, there would be no sovereign countries, only "occupied territories".
Retired Military: Inaction, does not spell incompetence or failure in leadership. It takes a great leader to stand up to the majority of war mongering thugs in Washington. It takes a greater leader still to not rush on judgement.
Senator McCain may be one voice, but a Pew research done on percentage of Republicans for action in Syria stands at 56%. That's more than half of Republicans. While the Washington post placed the figure at 67%. So there's no denying that most Republicans supported action in Syria, while the majority of US citizens opposed the idea.
So you claim that Hamas uses civilians as shields. Tell me, who in their right mind would stand in front of a oncoming laser guided bomb to pose as a shield? Would that be the disabled Palestinians who died in a clinic? Or the children that were playing across the street? I think you fall for the Israeli excuses to easily my friend. Oh no, the Palestinians are terrorists, it's ok. Their rockets are a huge threat! No country can accept that! Imagine, if 85% of your country was occupied? Can you accept that? Would Texas accept that? Will it bow down it's head an say, yeah, we're under occupation, so we're not allowed to fight back. Yeah, in another life maybe. So the Palestinians who have been occupied for 47 years, that's acceptable. Of course. Simple logic right? The difference between Hamas and Israel... Hamas targets civilians and kills zero, while Israel targets terrorists and kills a lot of civilians.
Ferhat: As a career military veteran I know something about leadership and making difficult decisions. The actions he has taken have caused chaos in the middle east. His inaction is due to being dumbfounded and overwhelmed. His administration is up to its collective eyeballs in scandals and actions that will end badly for them soon. He is clearly not a great leader.
Pew poll maybe, Washington Post – not so much. I guess you see Democrats as above it all. That is just not realistic.
I wasn't born yesterday and my background gives me insight many do not possess. Hamas launches their attacks from hospitals and clinics. They launch from schools. This is no coincidence. This is done with the full intent to create a humanitarian crisis that the media will jump all over. They do not care about the innocent that die. They are playing their full hand. I believe you may be the one falling for Hamas' clever and diabolical methods of deception. Hamas directly targets and kills Israelis. Hamas also kills indiscriminately. Israelis target terrorists and unfortunately civilians die. That is how Hamas fights back on the world stage. They see the death of Palestinians as the cost of doing business. Anything to achieve their goal of destroying Israel and every Jew. These are their stated goals, a matter of record. That is tragic for the average Palestinians who probably want peace. You are just wrong on this specific issue. They kill with more than just rockets. I believe you know this to be true.
I don't think Texas would put up with much from any group! If there was indiscriminate rocket fire into the legitimate state of Texas by those who believe Texas was stolen and has no right to exist, Texas would destroy them – no doubt.
As I said before, until they love peace more than they hate Israel, they will continue to die. They have the freedom to choose and they continually chose death – insanity.
Retired Military: As a former military person, you may have a different perspective on leadership. However, leadership is more than just commanding troops and fighting the enemy. When it comes to dealing with civilians, the scenario changes. These are no longer just terrorists or soldiers you're dealing with. There are innocent people you have to consider in your Military equation. As for the scandals in Obama's office, that may be so, but tell me, who hasn't dealt with those before him? The Republicans are following him with a microscope searching for mistakes and flaws that really aren't there and time will show that he did what was necessary and right. But that is my opinion and I respect yours as well. Only time will tell.
I don't see Democrats as above it all. I just tend to side with their moderate views more. Such as gun control, health care, women's rights etc. Our own personal views are not really the issue here. I stated my case against the Republicans and I presented you with the percentage which speaks for itself. I did not come up with those numbers, neither was I expressing my view based on emotion.
You claim that Hamas launches their strikes from hospitals, clinics or schools. Yet each time a international journalist who visits those locations, they state that is not the case. The locals deny it, the journalists deny it, everyone except Israeli intelligence who somehow are always right according to you and those who support the air strikes. You're right that the average Palestinian wants peace. They voted for Hamas democratically. This was a result of many years of oppression. What happens to people who are oppressed for nearly 50 years? They turn to extreme measures. Texas would do the same. Any state would do the same when they're oppressed. The problem lies with Israel's government. They have to be serious about a 2 state solution and accept Hamas. Only then will they know peace. They have to grant the Palestinians their freedom. I believe that the average Israeli and Palestinians want peace. Peace will not happen as long as Israel continues to oppress and subjugate the Palestinian people.
Ferhat: I appreciate your thoughts on leadership. I have been leading for many years, to include the public sector. Part of leadership is taking care of your people so that you can obtain your organizational goals, all while creating a positive environment. Not rocket science, but not everyone in leadership positions get that. Innocent people are always considered in the US equation. The are considered in the Israeli equation as well. However, they are NOT considered in the Hamas equation. My "claims" are a matter of record regarding Hamas' tactics and the reality of their operations are in clear contrast to what you state about Hamas having clean hands in their tactics – your comments on this issue are just not true. Hamas does not care about Palestinian lives, that is why they launch weapons from those sites. Hamas knows there will be civilian deaths and casualties when the Israelis retaliate. Israel has every right to retaliate. Hamas relies on media coverage to garner world support using the dead as sacrificial lambs. This is outrageous and you should speak out about this instead of patently and wrongly defending it. Hamas openly states they are for the complete destruction of Israel and its people. It is in their charter. There is no compromise with these fanatics. Israel wants peace and a 2 state solution. But, Hamas is not a legitimate partner in peace as they do not want peace. With Hamas it is all or nothing. As I repeatedly have said...There will be no peace until Hamas and the Palestinians love peace more than they hate Israel.
Regarding the scandals: yes, all administrations have issues. However, it is how you handle the issues, that is what matters. There are so many scandals of his own doing and it is overwhelming the system. The Administration is not being truthful and these scandals cannot be out of pure coincidence. I don't quite comprehend how can you actually still support what is happening? The damn will break and there will be many crushed in its wake. History will look sadly upon those who knowingly continued to support this administration to the end. Since you are partial to polls, look at the polls on the President – they are all bad news.
Finishing up with Texas: Texas would also totally crush people who vow its destruction. People who claim Texas doesn't have the right to exist. People who want ALL Texans dead. People who want the land that belongs to Texas.
We disagree on most issues, but I do enjoy the back and forth. Take care.
We are on polar opposites in many issues.
Ferhat: Please disregard "We are on polar opposites in many issues." Editing error on my part.
Why not just build them seven elevens
Well said @ Ferhat! And well supported by FACTS.
Chrissy: Not really. Ferhat's reply is subjective and not supported by many facts, more by emotions.
...And quite partisan.
As opposed to, Retired Military here who seems to know it all :))
No, never claimed to know it all, just not getting emotional.
I'm curious, how do you know I was emotional? You claim to somehow know I was basing my views by emotion... Yet, I provided you with pure facts (I can provide you with many more). So you apparently presume to know that I'm emotional? :))) How do you know that exactly?
In reading history one has to have an eye on what's written in the lines and another on what is between the lines. Have you ever thought for instance about the similarities between the US's and Israel's birth? their similarity in birth accounts in part for their political closeness. "Birds of a feather flock together".