The president has been helping the Syrian Brotherhood from the sidelines (“leading from behind”) all along. The pretext for his current, stepped-up efforts is the stated fear that Assad will use his inventory of chemical and biological weapons against “his own people” — a euphemism for “Sunni Islamist opposition” that enables the media to skirt the inconvenient fact that Syria’s religious minorities prefer Assad, the devil they know, to the specter of persecution under Brotherhood rule. But there is no more WMD danger than there has ever been — Assad is a rogue, so the fact that he has such weapons has always been a big problem. Moreover, the overthrow of Assad would mean his WMDs end up in the hands either of his Hezbollah allies or his al-Qaeda-affiliated enemies. Those outcomes are even worse for us.
In fact, weapons falling into the wrong hands was precisely the outcome of Obama’s Libya catastrophe. There, the president joined with Sunni Islamists to overthrow a regime that, though unsavory, was cooperating with the United States. The result was jihadists raiding Qaddafi’s high-powered arsenal; the installation of a feckless government that cannot control its tribal and Islamist enclaves; the destabilization of North Africa; and the eventual murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
With regard to that latter massacre in Benghazi, a State Department report issued this week could not help but condemn the reckless security lapses even as its authors whitewashed the culpability of Secretary Clinton. They also sidestepped the simple, central questions to which Washington, after three months, cannot produce answers: How and when during the seven-hour terrorist siege did President Obama learn about it, and what orders did he give to mobilize available military assets to protect the Americans who were under attack?
Outside of Washington, the similarities between the mess Obama’s Islamist-empowerment strategy made of Libya and the mess it is likely to make of Syria are not lost, even on such neo-imperialists as Vladimir Putin. At a news conference in Moscow this week, the Russian strongman explained his opposition to military intervention against Assad by pointing to Libya as evidence that such adventures can do more harm than good. Ripping the Obama administration, Putin blamed the killing of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi on the president’s policy of ousting Qaddafi in favor of a “state that is falling apart” as its “interethnic, inter-clan, and intertribal conflicts continue.”
It should go without saying that Putin is being disingenuous. The Russians, their disclaimers notwithstanding, are aligned with Syria and Iran. Ever the champion of anti-American dictators, they are determined to prop Assad up. Analogously hypocritical, the Chinese who presume to lecture us on debt are themselves close to imploding.
Still, the impurity of their motives does not invalidate their observations. Our debt is a travesty. Our facilitation of the Brotherhood is self-destructive. Those are facts. Washington is so broken that our enemies no longer need to make things up to embarrass us. Rock bottom.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was published by Encounter Books.