When Barack Obama was first sworn into office he talked about the need to do away with partisan divisiveness in Washington and his ability to reach across the aisle. Nobody expected much from that plan, but here in the fourth quarter of the game we may have to chalk up a few points for the big guy. Some of his programs are so unpopular with both parties that Democrats and Republicans are coming together to oppose him. We already saw his trade deal get beaten up quite a bit in a bipartisan battle this week, and now his handling of the situation in Syria is being viewed so unfavorably that the two parties seem to be willing to slash funding for one aspect of it.
Key lawmakers have moved to slash funding of a secret CIA operation to train and arm rebels in Syria, a move that U.S. officials said reflects rising skepticism of the effectiveness of the agency program and the Obama administration’s strategy in the Middle East.
The House Intelligence Committee recently voted unanimously to cut as much as 20 percent of the classified funds flowing into a CIA program that U.S. officials said has become one the agency’s largest covert operations, with a budget approaching $1 billion a year.
“There is a great deal of concern on a very bipartisan basis with our strategy in Syria,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel. He declined to comment on specific provisions of the committee’s bill but cited growing pessimism that the United States will be in a position “to help shape the aftermath” of Syria’s civil war.
Before digging into this any further, allow me to once again ask the same question which keeps popping up over and over again; if this is such a top secret program, why am I reading about it in the Washington Post? But I suppose it’s too late to be worried about such trifling things these days, eh?
This is just a preliminary intelligence spending bill which won’t even make it to the floor for at least a week, so a lot can change between now and then. It sounds, however, like the key players from both parties are ready to send a big signal to the Oval Office. Cutting funding to the CIA in any way during an historically dangerous period such as the one we find ourselves in may sound alarming, but this isn’t just some budgetary slash and burn maneuver. If they’re cutting funding just for this one program, we might assume that the money could be redirected in a more fruitful direction.
It’s not hard to understand how there could be bipartisan support for pulling the plug on at least some aspects of our activities in Syra. Bashar al-Assad seems to be losing ground on a regular basis and currently controls little more than his own palace some days. Before long, even the delusional leader may have to admit that most of his country is controlled by rebel groups, including Islamist fighters who either are ISIS or are strongly aligned with their goals. If we’re going to keep funding these other rebel or counter-rebel (or whatever they are) forces, the theory seems to be that they could prevent the majority of the nation from falling under the control of ISIS aligned militants. But how trustworthy and friendly to the west are the people we’re funding, training and backing? And how many of them are true loyalists and how many are embeds from the enemy, assuming we can even define who the enemy is at this point?
The time when we could have done anything positive, significant and lasting in Syria seems to have long since passed. It seems a shame to simply abandon ship, but at some point we may have to admit that Syria is officially a failed state and be ready to just unleash a fleet of drones to try to play whack-a-mole with the various terrorist groups flourishing there.