President Obama Syria The Daily Banter

The Goalpost for Success Was the Disarmament of Syria’s WMD, So the U.S. Won a Historic Victory

My Monday column:

Saturday marked an historic event future generations will read about in books. Over the weekend, Russia and the United States reached an accord over the question of the Syrian government’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, most recently used against civilians late last month.

Whether the United States “won” depends entirely upon your definition of victory. Personally, I define victory in terms of the stated goal of the administration’s actions of the past three weeks: to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons to prevent another attack on Syrian civilians.

On the other hand, Jeffrey Goldberg, in a Bloomberg column on Sunday, detailed his personal criteria for why he believes the crisis in Syria was a victory for Bashar al-Assad. And for Russian president Vladimir Putin. And, begrudgingly, for President Obama and the United States.

Everyone gets a trophy. How millennial.

One of the reasons for Assad’s victory, Goldberg wrote, is that the disarmament agreement would somehow forbid future Western military action against the regime. This isn’t entirely true. U.S. officials have been perfectly clear that military intervention is still possible, especially if, as Goldberg conceded, Assad were to snap and use chemical weapons again. Nevertheless, Goldberg wrote that Assad will continue to kill people the old-fashioned way and now we’re powerless to stop him.

But intervening in the civil war and thwarting Assad’s military capabilities was never a goalpost beyond providing arms to moderate opposition forces.

Realistically, it’s impossible to fail at a mission that never existed… [CONTINUE READING]