President Obama's decision to provide weapons to rebels in Syria has the potential to become another foreign policy blunder at a time when the Nobel Prize winner's second term is mired in scandal. Obama had been saying for months that he would not send troops into the region, but has now stationed 300 troops just outside Syria on its border with Jordan. Obama attributes the abrupt escalation in U.S. involvement to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But another factor could be Obama's desire to appear tough on the issue during the G8 summit this week and to divert attention from the IRS, NSA and Benghazi scandals.
Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin deny that chemical weapons were used, but reports of their possible use have circulated for months. Trusting Syria and Russia on this issue would require a complete suspension of disbelief just when Obama needs verified facts, not ideological fantasies, as he edges America closer to intervening in a bloody Middle East civil war.
Back in 2007, then-Senator Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Now into his fifth year as commander-in-chief, the prison remains open. This has angered his base and demonstrated an ability to make lofty promises without fully thinking them through. Where would all those prisoners go? The question could not be answered, as no allied country would accept them. Similarly, candidate Obama promised to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sooner than he was able to do as president because of unforeseen difficulties. Violence has escalated in both countries as well.
Then there was Libya. Not only did the administration provide aid to Libyan rebels during the Arab Spring (and, at times, drones), but long after the rebellion had ended, terrorists in Libya killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. To this day questions remain unanswered and those responsible have not been brought to justice.
Perhaps the Obama blunder that is most analogous to Syria was his approach to the rebellion in Egypt in 2011. Obama pledged support to the Egyptian rebels without fully knowing who they were. As it turned out, those who took power in Egypt were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist group committed to destroying Israel and America. Many of the rebel factions fighting in Syria have close ties to al-Qaeda, and helping them could lead to another Egypt situation.
Obama also continues to anger his base with the use of drones to kill terrorists--including American citizens. Instead of capturing, charging or interrogating terrorists for information, Obama seems to have decided that killing them is a better solution. In other words, other than killing Osama bin Laden, Obama's foreign policy has featured a succession of blunders on the big challenges. Going into Syria with weapons, air support, drones or other lethal assistance could involve the U.S. in an uncontrollable escalation, especially now that Hezbollah is prominently involved and Iran is sending troops to rescue Assad.