I’m torn between thinking this is big news and thinking it’s so obvious that it doesn’t qualify as news at all. Show of hands: Who believes a war that’s been raging for three and a half years, with hundreds of thousands of people dead, between every degenerate Sunni and Shiite jihadi outfit in the Middle East is going to be won by a few thousand amateurs who’ve had a couple months of training from Uncle Sam?
We’ve got the 16 seed in this bracket, guys. Let’s bet what’s left of our foreign policy credibility on it, what do you say?
The opposition derives from a number of factors. First, the CIA has already been covertly equipping Syrian rebels at the instruction of the White House, but has come to find the fighters increasingly disorganized and radicalized as the conflict goes on, with U.S.-supplied arms winding up in the hands of more radical fighters…
“I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,” the congressman said in an email. “Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.”
He added that, as the CIA sees it, the ramped-up backing of rebels is an expansion of a strategy that is already not working. “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands,” the congressman said, echoing intelligence sources.
A CIA spokesman disputed all of that when asked, of course, because when your boss has cooked up a half-assed plan to win the worst war in the world as a late entrant, that’s what you do. The best spin you can put on the agency’s skepticism here is that it’s a turf-war thing: Once Congress authorizes O to begin training the rebels, as the Senate will do sometime today, the Pentagon will take over the process. And once that happens, said Ben Rhodes to HuffPo, the U.S. can “scale up [its] training and equipment” and “do things on a bigger scale.” Which is super, except … no one thinks the big problem with the arm-the-rebels plan has been its scale. The problem is that there aren’t enough “moderates” left in Syria and the few who are there have a nasty habit of not remaining “moderate” for very long. But listen — don’t take my word for it. I want you to click play on the clip below, which was recorded less than six weeks ago, and skip to 7:19. Stick with it for 60 seconds. Note the word “fantasy.” Nothing he says has anything to do with the “scale” of our operations. What changed between early August and now to make him change his mind so thoroughly?
Answer: Nothing changed. Increasingly, I think this whole arm-the-rebels plan is just a perfunctory mad-libs answer to an obvious question about O’s ISIS strategy. Everyone understands that we can put a hurt on them from the air; we can probably also pull together a force in Iraq between the Iraqi army and the peshmerga to push ISIS back into Syria. But what happens then? If the plan is to destroy them, how do we get them once they’re back inside their home base and hunkered down in Syrian cities? We don’t. In reality, we’re practicing a containment strategy, the first step of which is to shove ISIS out of Iraq and the second step of which is to drone their key leaders and terror camps once they’ve returned to Syria. Destroying ISIS will be left to the Shiites who are really motivated to do it, be it Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, or, most likely, Shiite militias from Syria and Iraq. This FSA pipe dream is less an actual plan than a rhetorical one, so that O has an out-of-the-box answer handy when someone asks him “Who’s going to fight our battle in Syria?” What’s he supposed to say, “Shiite death squads”? That may be the correct answer but it’s not a politic one.