Syria, the Times and the Mystery of the "Moderate Rebels" | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Syria, the Times and the Mystery of the "Moderate Rebels"

It's always been a fantasy, this idea that we could provide some light arms, or even more sophisticated arms, to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth, and that that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state, but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah. That was never in the cards.
The "moderate rebels" are a good deal like the Third Force once dreamed of by the architects of the Vietnam War, as an alternative to the French colonial government and the communist Viet Minh. The US found an "independent" ally in the corrupt anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem but eventually had him deposed and killed. The upright democratic allies on the ground only existed in numbers too weak to count politically or militarily; nor could the CIA in Vietnam conjure them out of thin air; and a failure of rational doubt set the United States on the long downward spiral of that war.

The truth is that Obama when he spoke those words confessed the self-contradiction of his own policy. For his administration continues to harbor enthusiasts of the Third Force idea like Susan Rice and Samantha Power, alongside persons of a less romantic temper such as Vice President Biden and Denis McDonough. When, in August 2011, Obama said that Assad must go and implied that he must go immediately, he was commanding beyond his power to enforce, and he had nobody in view to replace Assad. The same enthusiasts had already goaded him to commit US power and prestige to the destruction of the government of Libya, without any plan for what would succeed that government. The catastrophe that followed has been so complete that for two years now the word Libya has hardly been uttered by the president; but it must be part of what he thinks of, looking back, when he considers some new piece of high strategic advice on Syria.