Monday, April 1, 2013

US Official: “It doesn’t seem to matter much whether we are engaged or not. Things turn out badly.”

'Two foreign policy debates currently dominate the discussion in Washington: North Korea and Syria. On the former, Secretary of State Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey are talking a tough game in response to what they regard as serious threats to attack US forces. Nuclear-capable B2 aircraft have taken part in joint exercises with South Korean forces and contingency plans to respond to a possible North Korean incursion. One international commentator has remarked that the US has lost “strategic patience.” From our own conversations within the Pentagon and the intelligence community, our sense is that US officials do not believe that the situation is out of control. Pointing to evidence of increasingly serious Chinese pressure on North Korea,........... On Syria, observers see the most recent bloodshed in Damascus as fresh evidence that the Assad regime is in increasingly serious trouble. As such, advocates of a more committed US engagement are arguing that this is necessary so that Washington can both head off the infiltration of extremist elements and have influence with whatever post-Assad leadership emerges. As we have reported before, our assessment remains that President Obama still needs to be convinced that he can engage in Syria without dragging his Administration into what he fears would be another inconclusive exposure for the US in the Middle East. We understand that voices among his national security advisers continue to get louder in the direction of intervention. Our expectation, however, that Obama will remain cautious and will place strict limits on any US operations in any US involvement with the Syrian opposition. Part of this caution is driven by political considerations and is to be seen in Obama’s inclination to give a much higher priority to the US domestic agenda – White House press briefings barely touch on international issues. Another part arises out of serious disappointment with the outcome of the Arab Spring and the intervention in Libya. As one State Department official put it to us: “It doesn’t seem to matter much whether we are engaged or not. Things turn out badly.”

No comments: