— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) March 16, 2015
An already confused US foreign policy just got more confusing. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that, despite the “New Hitler” campaign launched previously against him, the US was open to negotiating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying “We have to negotiate in the end,” and “We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process.”
A reasonable position given the recent shift in US foreign policy. Now that the US has claimed that ISIS is an official enemy it would seem to be a bad move to continue to call for the ouster of the head of the government fighting ISIS in Syria. Or would it?
Not long after Secretary Kerry’s comments State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf tweeted “Policy remains same & is clear: there’s no future for Assad in Syria & we say so all the time.” In other words, the policy of regime change remains in place.
— Marie Harf (@marieharf) March 15, 2015
That should be a short negotiation then. “Leave.” “No.”
But it is unfair to blame Secretary Kerry and a spokesperson for presenting such a disjointed and clownish image of the US government to the world. The truth is the policy is disjointed and clownish. From the beginning President Obama has had conflicting policies in the Middle East never quite sure if he wants to promote human rights, protect national interests, or imperialistically try to remake the Middle East in his own image (a tradition among US presidents).
Whether it was supporting the overthrow of Mubarak in favor of democratic reform only to then bless a military coup in Egypt, destroying the country to protect it from “massacres” in Libya, or the regime change policy in Syria, the Obama Administration does not appear to have any idea of where it wants to end up even in the medium term. An ad hoc foreign policy with the world’s most powerful military has, not surprisingly, sown more disorder and heartbreak than it has alleviated.
The only upside to President Obama’s lack of commitment is his lack of commitment to something amazingly stupid like the 2003 invasion of Iraq under President Bush. But not doing something amazingly stupid is a pretty low bar and despite his prudent avoidance of large blunders Obama has sent troops back into Iraq and reversed his own timetable for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.
There is no doubt that dogmatically following a grand strategy can be dangerous, but so can having no strategy at all.