Today’s Jackson Diehl column is like the Platonic ideal of a DC foreign policy column. He’s really, really, really furious about Barack Obama for not doing “more” to block the Syrian government’s violent repression of anti-government protests and he goes on for some length about it all without mentioning a single efficacious step he’d like to see Obama take. And the column contains the following amazing paragraph:
No one in Syria has asked for a Libya-style military intervention, and nothing else the United States and Europe could do, even in concert, would probably be decisive. But why do so little, and so slowly?
What is the big mystery here? The Obama administration is doing “so little” because nobody can think of any reasonable steps to take. That’s sad. It’s frustrating even. I bet policymakers in the White House, in the State Department, and in the Department of Defense are upset about it. But what are they supposed to do? Genuinely: what? They could just make increasingly bombastic statements, but that would just make them look silly. They could attack Syria, but they shouldn’t. And short of that, there doesn’t seem to be anything else they could do, even in concert, that would be decisive. It’s all right there in the column.
One of the luxuries one has as a writer is that “write a furious denunciation of Assad in which I say mean things about him and his regime” is a totally viable response to events. But the head of government of a major global power can’t just say stuff unless he’s got a plan to back it up with action.