Smart power: White House surprised that Syrian crisis has gotten this serious

posted at 7:46 pm on April 27, 2011 by Allahpundit

I don’t get it. U.S. intelligence has never let us down before.

For the first three weeks of the protests in Syria, which first broke out on March 15, the Obama administration debated internally how to react to while generally proceeding cautiously in public. Occupied with the Libya war and skeptical that Syria would reach the current level of unrest, the administration’s policy was to issue carefully worded statements condemning the violence while encouraging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to pursue reform and reconciliation.

Two weeks ago, however, the mood inside the administration changed in response to Assad’s brutal crackdown and the realization that he was not listening to pro-reform voices from inside or outside Syria

Multiple administration officials told The Cable that [last month] the administration had simply concluded, incorrectly, that the Syrian crisis would never grow this serious. That judgment informed their go-slow approach in responding to the protests…

“A lot of people were wrong. The general assessment [inside the administration] was that this wouldn’t happen, that Assad was too good at nipping these movements in the bud and also that he was not afraid to be brutal,” one administration official said. “All of these things combined made this more of a surprise and made it much harder to deal with.”

In other words, they thought Hafez Assad’s son could be reasoned with because he’s a “reformer” or whatever, but they also thought he’d utterly crush the protesters if they got a bit too aggressive for his liking — which makes them wrong on not one but two counts. I can cut them a break on the latter since the Arab Spring is, after all, unprecedented and neither Ben Ali nor Mubarak used comprehensive force against demonstrators to prove that it would or wouldn’t work, but precisely what sort of “reform” did they expect to see Assad undertake here? Syria and its Iranian/Lebanese orbit are very dangerous places, even by Middle Eastern standards; if Assad had relaxed his grip and given the Sunni majority a bigger role in government, it might have spooked Iran and/or Hezbollah and even increased the risk of a Syrian civil war. (In fact, that’s already a significant risk, especially now that some Syrian troops are breaking away from the regime by refusing to fire on protesters.) Ironically, the Syrian government has — superficially — imposed more “reforms” over the past month to try to placate protesters than either the Tunisian or Egyptian dictatorships did. The emergency law was lifted, for example, right before Syrian troops started gunning people down in the name of managing an emergency. What more did the White House expect from Assad, knowing a la Rafiq Hariri what happens to political leaders who get on the wrong side of Syria’s Shiite allies abroad?

Even now, with hundreds upon hundreds of people murdered and no sign of regime violence abating, U.S. diplomats won’t call for Assad to go — a testament to how worried western nations are about a power vacuum in Damascus. Meanwhile, at the UN, the Security Council spent a whole bunch of time today deciding on nothing and the Human Rights Council is on the cusp of admitting Syria as a brand new member despite daily atrocities committed against citizens in the name of ending the protests. That, and not the Birther saga, is truly the most surreal story of the day. In fact, since the White House is unsure what to do by way of meaningful action against Assad, let me gently suggest boycotting the repulsive HRC if Syria is sworn in Friday. It won’t stop the killing, but it’s useful symbolism and even Obama’s political opponents on the right will pat him on the back for it. How about it?


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suggest boycotting the repulsive HRC

That’s Madam Secretary the Repulsive to you.

pedestrian on April 27, 2011 at 7:50 PM

I hear Assad was really born in Kurdistan.

abobo on April 27, 2011 at 7:52 PM

…the repulsive HRC…

I agree, she is repulsive.

aquaviva on April 27, 2011 at 7:52 PM

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/143721

Syria, Candidate for UN Rights Council, Cuts Off Water Supplies to city

William Amos on April 27, 2011 at 7:54 PM

There is no URGENCY in this administration. It appears there is no one saying “what if?” to the president, and if they do, he ignores them. This leads fair minded people to ask, “WFT is he trying to do?”

CTSherman on April 27, 2011 at 7:55 PM

t won’t stop the killing, but it’s useful symbolism and even Obama’s political opponents on the right will pat him on the back for it. How about it?

Oh yeah…he’s all over that…’cuz what he needs is conservatives patting him on the back.

AUINSC on April 27, 2011 at 7:56 PM

We could have credible intel of a potential invasion into this country, and Obama’s administration would stand there with thumbs up their arses, and fingers in each others noses and say….we’re shocked! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

capejasmine on April 27, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Can the Ivy League grad pick out Syria on a map?

SouthernGent on April 27, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Lead from behind.

petunia on April 27, 2011 at 8:06 PM

Video of Adobe PDF Layers Being Removed From Obama’s Birth Certificate

Just for sh!ts and grins, one more for the true believers :)

Nearly Nobody on April 27, 2011 at 8:07 PM

You can’t really blame the administration for this intelligence failure. It’s ultimately CNN’s reporting that’s at fault.

Mark1971 on April 27, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Progressives for Syria!
=========================

Debate about Syria among Lebanese progressives:
summing it up
April 26, 2011
***************

Comrade Laure sent me this

“Reading Al Alakhbar and your blog on Syria, I came to the conclusion that the uncertainty among people in the same camp, mainly leftists,

about Syria is simply about whether the Salafists/ Islamists in the protests are the minority or the majority, and so for some they are a majority and hence who cares about democracy

and for others they are a minority so the fight is worth it but those same leftists never cared about democracy anyway.

It is so ironic. You for example are supporting the toppling of the regime for obvious reasons despite the Saudi counter revolution, others are against the toppling of the regime despite Israel sharing the same position for fear of the Muslim brotherhood.

So Saudi and Israeli interests diverged on Syria? This is so confusing and I don’t know what to think anymore.

Now your theory of chaos is an interesting one but it is frightening!! I thought of sharing this with you because I don’t know what to think anymore.

Everyone here is only discussing Syria, some with genuine fear about its spillover on Lebanon.”
———————-

http://angryarab.net/2011/04/26/debate-about-syria-among-lebanese-progressives-summing-it-up/

canopfor on April 27, 2011 at 8:27 PM

Disgraceful. But what can we expect from Liberals who are inherently sympathetic to Muslim radicals and a Prez whose middle name is “Hussein” for Pete’s sake?

Video of Adobe PDF Layers Being Removed From Obama’s Birth Certificate

Just for sh!ts and grins, one more for the true believers :)

Nearly Nobody on April 27, 2011 at 8:07 PM

Wow, it’s phony after all. Whowouldathunkit?

Dr. ZhivBlago on April 27, 2011 at 8:27 PM

Liberals and Foreign Policy,and American National Security,
is like KOOL_AID and Oil,they both don’t mix!!!!!!!!!!!!

canopfor on April 27, 2011 at 8:31 PM

D’oh

cmsinaz on April 27, 2011 at 8:35 PM

Indeed Canopfor.

:)

cmsinaz on April 27, 2011 at 8:37 PM

Smart power: White House surprised that Syrian crisis has gotten this serious

Barry is puzzled. If you ignore a problem, it’s supposed to just go away. Worked in Chicago.

GarandFan on April 27, 2011 at 8:40 PM

Hopefully these “smart” people will be looking for new jobs on January 20, 2013…

Khun Joe on April 27, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Maybe its time for Assad to leave?

Syria must go. And the horrific Assad family needs to get with the plan that even when Iran and al Qaeda work together, that doesn’t mean that they respect each other’s turf. And Syria is looking to be ground zero for a major turf fight.

Not that a splinter sect of Shia having a corrupt, drug running, WMD producing authoritarian family running it was ever going to run into problems with a major portion of the population that isn’t part of that splinter sect or Sunni. That’s something like 97% of the country ruled by 3% of it, if you’re generous on the numbers. Noooooo… it would always be a lovely police state foooorrrreeeeeevvvvvvveeeerrrr….

ajacksonian on April 27, 2011 at 9:06 PM

Why would anyone on the world stage listen to Obama? He’s a weak leader and he’s very sympatric to lefty dictators and radical Muslims. They know he’s an empty suit voting “present” on his way to the nearest golf course instead of taking on difficult issues.

When the real world hit an affirmative action graduate in power it’s an ugly sight.

RJL on April 27, 2011 at 9:08 PM

Wait, don’t tell me. It was…unexpected?

Inquiring minds want to know, has anyone asked the Rose in the Desert what she thinks of her husband’s policies and tactics?

They told us we had to get back on the HRC because as outsiders, we couldn’t be influential. So, apparently this is the kind of thing that happens when the US has influence.

SukieTawdry on April 27, 2011 at 9:08 PM

How pathetic, but not surprising after 2.5 years of utter incompetence.

Lance Murdock on April 27, 2011 at 9:46 PM

“A lot of people were wrong”. Actually, just he entire amateur night at the Roxie Obama national security team.

Mason on April 27, 2011 at 9:52 PM

I hear Assad was really born in Kurdistan.

abobo on April 27, 2011 at 7:52 PM

No, Hawaii.

cartooner on April 27, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Our Secretary of State said that she was “gravely concerned,” what more do you want?

/s

MJBrutus on April 28, 2011 at 7:47 AM

suggest boycotting the repulsive HRC
That’s Madam Secretary the Repulsive to you.

pedestrian on April 27, 2011 at 7:50 PM

Ha ha. I see what you did there. Good one…

Big John on April 28, 2011 at 8:01 AM