Zbigniew Brzezinski struggles to understand the president’s strategy:
Larison analyzes the news:
This move will almost certainly prolong and intensify the conflict, which will mean that even more Syrians on both sides of the war will suffer and die. It’s a serious mistake, and one that will probably lead to even bigger ones in the future. Because it will prove to be ineffective in changing the course of the war, as opponents of this measure have said for years, it will serve as an invitation to further escalation in the coming months and years. The Syria hawks agitating for increased involvement have managed to pressure the administration into this because of Obama’s own unforced errors and because there has been practically no one to stop this from happening. Let this be a lesson that there is no policy measure so ill-conceived or unwise that the constant, repetitive demand for it in public won’t eventually succeed.
Massimo Calabresi thinks prolonging the war may be the point:
The Assad regime is increasingly relying on Hezbollah to fight throughout the country. The rebels for their part are relying on jihadist and al Qaeda allies to fight back. Keeping two of the United States’ most active terrorist enemies fighting each other might be seen in some circles as not such a bad thing.
To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that’s been going on for the past two years. To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible. This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished…. at an appalling toll in lives lost.
This policy doesn’t require any course correction… so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources. A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the conflict. In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents relations with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further.
Dexter Filkins sizes up Assad and his allies:
Now that the moment for American action has come, it is very late in the day. The war in Syria is not just a humanitarian catastrophe—the U.N. said on Thursday that the death toll had reached ninety-three thousand. Worse, the Assad régime appears, after months of stalemate, to have gained the upper hand. This is almost certainly due to a large-scale intervention by Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group, which has sent as many as two thousand fighters into Syria to save Assad. Hezbollah fighters were decisive in the pro-Assad force’s recent recapture of the city of Qusayr, which, in turn, is central to Hezbollah’s existence. Qusayr sits on the main road leading into Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Hezbollah’s stronghold, and serves as the main conduit for Iranian arms and missiles that have made Hezbollah the formidable armed group that it is. Hezbollah’s intervention has been accompanied by a massive, ceaseless airlift from the Iranian government, which regards Assad as its closest friend in the Arab world.
Drum expects that US involvement will only deepen:
The next step, of course, is to cave in to the hawks and send the rebels the antitank and antiaircraft weaponry they want. I figure, what? Another couple of months before Obama decides to do that? Then the no-fly zone. Then….something else.
And Friedersdorf has stopped “trying to figure Obama out”:
[W]hether he is deliberately trying to escalate U.S. involvement, as Sullivan seems to think, or just prolonging the slaughter in Syria, as Drezner believes, his actions will be just the latest disappointment to the anti-war liberals who helped elect him. They’ll also be another example of a president making a decision that would be better debated and voted on by Congress.
My objection to intervention in Syria here.