Dissent messages at State are rare; even more so one signed by multiple persons. Set up some 45 years ago, the dissent channel serves as a way for State employees to express disagreement with policy while keeping the discussion within State. The regulations establishing this channel spend a lot of words assuring senders of dissent messages that they will not suffer reprisals. Few at State, however, believe that. At least some signatories of this message almost certainly will see their careers suffer. The State bureaucracy, under Democrats and Republicans, is thin-skinned, vindictive, and has a long memory. I know this from personal experience. The cult at State does not appreciate criticism or independent thought--and, again, that's regardless of whom occupies the White House. Dissent, therefore, even the tepid sort we see in the message under discussion, is not something an officer who has career aspirations undertakes casually. The people who signed this little missive, therefore, have a degree of bureaucratic courage that we must acknowledge.
As readers of this humble blog know, I have criticized the Obama misadministration's MidEast policy, including in Syria, for years. Peruse the archives and you will find many nasty pieces on that policy, along with, even if I say so myself, accurate predictions. I noted, for example, that all we were doing was to enhance the roles of Iran and Russia; strengthen ISIS and other terrorist crazies; endanger Israel; help Iran get nukes; help foment mass migration; worsen the humanitarian situation in the region; and severely degrade Western interests. Our policy has murky and shifting objectives, and, frankly, is a dangerous waste of resources. Other than that, it's fine . . . move along, nothing to see here.
I have stressed more than once that when dealing with Syria's Assad one should look at the Israelis. If anybody has a right and a reason to detest the Assad family dictatorship the Israelis do; they, despite having the ability to do so, have never sought to knock out the Assads. They know that in the Arab world the devil you know often times proves much less worse than the one you don't. Keep that in mind.
You, of course, can read the dissent message and reach your own conclusions. I find its prescriptions for action and its criticisms of Obama/Kerry to be muddled. It is a joint product, and it shows, and, therefore, lacks clarity and strength. Its main positive attribute, nevertheless, is that it recognizes something which progressives seem to ignore, or forget, to wit, the direct link, especially in the Middle East, between successful diplomacy and having a badass military at your beck-and-call. In the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world, the ability to inflict pain can guarantee a much better diplomatic result than just smooth talk, cocktail parties, and words on a piece of paper. Let's not forget, for example, how the Dayton Peace Accords were reached: F-16s are powerful convincers that agreeing to peace is the better option.
The message's key recommendation is that the United States use military power to contain and curtail the activities of the Assad regime. It recommends increased use of our air power and other "stand-off" capabilities to convince the Assad clan to stop bombing civilians, including the people we have trained, and cease its genocide. Fair enough. But, but, but is that the real problem in Syria for the US? Please note that the message does not openly call for regime change. It, however, has a key phrase, "military steps to stop the Assad regime’s relentless bombardment of the Syrian people may yield a number of second-order effects." Really? You mean such as knocking off Assad and having him replaced by what? Getting us into a shooting confrontation with the Russians and the Iranians? Getting us enmeshed in a weird civil war far from our shores and interests? I see no prescription for dealing with those "second-order effects." What's the plan? Libya, redux?
The message seems to call for more Obama/Kerry boosted by weak steroids. In other words, I see a call for an increase in ambiguous and restrained actions with no thought to the end game, and, certainly, no methodology for finding "moderates" who will fight both Assad and ISIS.
My prescription? I guess I should offer one if I criticize others for not.
o Back the Israelis, of course, but also support the Kurds; help them establish their own homeland in territory that is now Syria and Iraq. They are the last major group in the Middle East without their own country. They deserve one. We can and should tell the Turks to get stuffed. Now, of course, the Kurds are Muslims, but even El Cid made alliances with Muslim princes to get rid of other Muslim princes.
o We must continue to seek energy independence, so that the Middle East becomes increasingly less important to us.
o Stop importing that war and terrorism to our shores via our currently insane politically correct immigration and refugee policies.
o Smash ISIS to drive home to jihadis around the world, that Islamic war against the West leads only to their defeat (here, here).
As I wrote back in April 2011 (five-plus years ago!)
How long should we pretend that the problem is NOT Islam, when, in fact, it is, or at least the Islam that has gained currency in the modern world. We are at war with a totalitarianism as much as we were with Communism and Fascism. It's going to be a long, long war, one in which we have to inflict repeated defeats on the Islamists, be it in Chechnya, Gaza, Kashmir, Kabul, Baghdad, or in the streets and suites of America. In the end, we'll all be better off, including the Muslim world. Don't forget that the greatest victims of Islam are Muslims.That is my dissent message.