Not only has Ford seemed to embolden the anti-Assad movement in Syria, but Ford himself and senior Obama administration officials have said his presence there gleans valuable information, as Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch reported:
Ford’s conversations were one of their most important sources of information in assessing the Syrian scene. This is one key reason why they considered his presence essential even before his electrifying visit to Hama persuaded most of their critics of his value.
Yet the neocons at the Bill Kristol-led Foreign Policy Initiative (formerly Iraq war cheerleading outfit the Project for a New American Century) aren’t satisfied with Ford’s work. In fact, they still want him recalled. In a “Fact Sheet” released yesterday on “Five Steps to Hasten Assad’s Exit,” FPI acknowledged Ford’s “praiseworthy” trip to Hama, but still called on Obama to withdraw him anyway:
President Obama should recall the U.S. Ambassador to Syria — unless the administration is willing to use him as a proactive and public advocate for the Syrian people in their struggle against Assad. Notwithstanding Ambassador Robert Ford’s praiseworthy visit to Hama on July 8, 2011, the continued presence of a U.S. envoy in Damascus lends legitimacy to the Assad regime.
While FPI doesn’t specify what “a proactive and public advocate for the Syrian people” means outside of what Ford has already been doing, later in the “Fact Sheet,” the organization seems to set some fairly high expectations for engaging Syria:
Despite the Obama administration’s strategy of engagement with Syria, Assad has not renounced his support of terrorism, and his regime’s barbaric campaign against peaceful protesters demonstrates that its sole interest is to maintain power.
Perhaps FPI doesn’t understand how diplomacy and engagement work because Ford’s role as ambassador to Syria, particularly during the uprising, isn’t to bring down Assad. As Ford told Lynch, “This is not about Americans,” he said, adding, “It’s not an American decision [to make political demands]. What we will not do is to claim to speak for them. They are capable of speaking for themselves.”