Months before the rebellion began in Syria in 2011, a foreign leader I met with predicted that Assad would soon fall from power. Surely the White House saw what this observer saw. As the rebellion erupted, the time was ripe for us to bring together moderate leaders who would have been easy enough for us to identify, to assure the Alawites that they would have a future post-Assad, and to see that the rebels were well armed.
The advent of the Arab Spring may or may not have been foreseen by our intelligence community, but after Tunisia, it was predictable that Egypt might also become engulfed. At that point, pushing our friend Hosni Mubarak to take rapid and bold steps toward reform, as did Jordan’s king, might well have saved lives and preserved the U.S.-Egypt alliance.
The time for securing the status-of-forces signatures from leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan was before we announced in 2011 our troop-withdrawal timeline, not after it. In negotiations, you get something when the person across the table wants something from you, not after you have already given it away.