Every problem in the Middle East must look like a nail to some neoconservatives because they always want to bring out the big hammer of the U.S. military. That was the case today on Fox News when Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, wondered why President Obama would call for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to “step aside” without holding a threat of military attack over his head:
What I don’t really understand from this administration is its insistence that we take force off the table right now. I think that is the one thing that could coerce the Syrian regime — and could certainly coerce Assad to step down — is the fear of getting involved militarily. I’m not saying we have to follow through on it, but to say it’s off the table means that any threat we put out there won’t be taken seriously.
Schanzer’s lack of understanding is puzzling considering that Obama himself said explicitly in his statement exactly why he was taking military force off the table:
It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement.
This was backed up by a senior administration official, who said this morning on a call with reporters:
I don’t think anybody believes [military intervention] is the desired course in Syria — not the U.S. and our allies nor the Syrian people themselves.
Over the past several months, including in meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Syrian opposition activists have called for political and diplomatic support from foreign governments while explicitly warning against a foreign military intervention.
Just last week, a Syrian activist told an independent Arabic news outlet:
We are dependent on the mercy of God and the strength of the Syrian people. We refuse foreign intervention.
In the meeting with Clinton, U.S.-based Syrian opposition activists “unanimously refuse(d) any kind of military intervention in Syria and believe that Syrian people themselves are the ones to determine their future.”
In June, the Washington Times reported that “Syrian protesters are urging their colleagues in the West to oppose calls for foreign military intervention.”
The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes on Fox News last night lamented that Obama said the U.S. won’t attack Syria militarily. “I think the administration having said without being asked we’re not going to invade really takes away the push on the diplomatic side to make it less likely to succeed,” he said. War hawk Charles Krauthammer agreed: “It’s true there was no need to broadcast that we’re not going to invade Syria.”