Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to meet with Syrian rebels and favors greater US involvement. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin.)
Curious it is, as Yoda might say, that Obama administration officials are openly in disagreement about whether to escalate America’s involvement in the civil war in Syria. The good news: the administration is confused, and it finds the situation in Syria confusing. The bad news: step by step, the United States is edging closer to direct involvement in the war.
Most encouragingly, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that White House and other US officials no longer seem to want a victory by the Syrian rebels. In case you don’t read the Journal, its story began this way:
Senior Obama administration officials have caught some lawmakers and allies by surprise in recent weeks with an amended approach to Syria: They don't want an outright rebel military victory right now because they believe, in the words of one senior official, that the "good guys" may not come out on top.
And, it appears, the Obama administration now prefers a diplomatic solution rather a military victory by the rebels, because of Al Qaeda’s increasing influence. Says the Journal’s report:
Administration officials fear that with Islamists tied to Al Qaeda increasingly dominating the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, too swift a rebel victory would undercut hopes for finding a diplomatic solution, according to current and former officials. It would also shatter national institutions along with what remains of civil order, these people say, increasing the danger that Syrian chemical weapons will be used or transferred to terrorists.
Inside the administration, it seems that no one wants to make a decision one way or the other, although since late in 2012 President Obama has rebuffed top aides – including Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, and Gen. Martine Dempsey – who urged that the United States back the rebels with military support. Amazingly, when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified before Congress yesterday, he said that Obama hadn’t asked for his opinion:
We’ve not been asked. As I said, I’ve not been asked by the president.
General Dempsey chimed in thus:
We’ve had national security staff meetings at which we’ve been asked to brief the options, but we haven’t been asked for a recommendation.
In reporting the conflict inside the administration, including what appears to be Secretary of State John Kerry’s more interventionist point of view, The New York Times wrote: