The U.S. has tragically misplayed Syria

It is not that the Obama administration is doing nothing. Nonlethal aid has been dramatically increased. The United States is more active in ensuring that military aid from Turkey and Qatar doesn’t go to the most unsavory rebel groups, and the United States itself may even (according to some reports) be providing some covert military assistance.

The administration has come a long way — to arrive at the policy it should have had in early 2012. Other powers, meanwhile, have doubled and tripled down. In Syria, the United States has taken the placebo of incremental action — a rising trajectory of commitment on a much lower slope than have our opponents. …

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Russian outreach has only complicated the situation. A return to the Geneva process is marginalizing the people we most want to help. After receiving inadequate support from the United States and taking a beating on the ground, the FSA is being told to shape up and negotiate with Assad and his Russian allies, who are actively providing the means to destroy the rebellion. If the FSA acquiesced, it would be discredited. More Syrians — who generally have no interest in the return of the caliphate — would choose to fight under the jihadist black flag. It is a predicable calculation: better a radical than a lackey.