Saturday, June 15, 2013

SMART DIPLOMACY: Even leftist Joschka Fischer, of all people, grieves about “the loss” of America’s role as the world’s “indispensable nation”

These days, he grieves about what he sees as “the loss” of America’s role as the world’s “indispensable nation” — the only country able to say to outrage and oppression enough is enough — as demonstrated by “its absence” as the decisive element in the fight against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 
Thus writes John Vinocur, the most conservative commentator working for the New York Times, in the International Herald Tribune, quoting Joschka Fischer: “even inveterate anti-Americans will be crying out in the future for the old global order-maker.”
The situation is not just an historical footnote-to-be. Last week, Fischer wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “What we’re watching is a post-American world take shape, not involving some new order, but replaced by ambivalent power-politics, instability and, yes, chaos.”

Syria, in relation to America’s response, has been the scene of several events that point to Fischer’s concerns. 

In contrast to Russia’s function as arms supplier and chief diplomat for Syria, and Iran’s and Hezbollah’s battlefield presence, the Obama administration is stuck in facing more than 80,000 dead with a two-year record of indecision. 

Ambivalence? America’s projected nonlethal assistance to Assad’s opponents includes, according to The Associated Press, military vehicles — but not night vision goggles or body armor. 

 … In conversations in London and Paris with high British and French officials, there were expressions of concern about how the Obama administration aims to prevail in the Syria crisis, showing a kind of determination in the process meant to cow Iran from its rush to nukes. 

No one advocates American or allied boots on the ground in Syria. But when it comes to other serious military assistance for the rebels, the French and British experience is not positive

The allies, who favor supplying arms, were told by the White House last October that such U.S. lethal assistance was in preparation. It was urged by Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and Gen. Martin Dempsey. But the allies were left hanging when the White House withdrew the plan following Barack Obama’s re-election

For one French official, American indecision has left the Russians in a position of strength in relation to Syria.

 … The French also puzzle about a possible deal on Syria. In opposing an Iranian presence at Geneva, advocated by Russia, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has warned of a Tehran-engineered bargain in which Iran would “keep the atomic bomb while making concessions on Syria.” If the “international community” can’t stop Assad, he asked, “where’s the credibility of our assurances Iran will not get nuclear arms?” 

In this situation, what is clear is that Russia has bet the farm on Syria, aiming to thwart the United States there, while profiting from American unwillingness to link Russia’s on-going provocation to any countermeasure

America, in contrast, is standing at the $2 bettors’ window. It has no real horse in the race, not supporting moderate fighters with weapons while having insisted Assad was sure to fall in the coming weeks. 

The substance of the Geneva meeting hardly looks favorable. Assured of Russia’s wherewithal, why would Assad come to it to acknowledge, as proposed, that he will give way to a transitional government? 

It is here that a real measure of British and French concern enters about Barack Obama’s seeming movement away from his announced red lines on the use of chemical weapons. In April, when Britain tested samples from victims of a Syrian chemical attack, a statement from Prime Minister David Cameron asserted that the results indicated “a war crime.” 

France’s announcement last Tuesday that it is now “certain” Syria used the nerve agent sarin was meant, I was told, to stir U.S. engagement at a juncture when the rebels’ overall defeat was becoming a possibility.

Of course, Iran could make a gesture of enormously misplaced overconfidence and meet with a U.S. military response, the French official said. Otherwise, the Middle East faced on-going disruptions without the assured support of an American rampart

While the notion of America’s global indispensability goes back to World War II, an assertion of it came in 1996 with President Bill Clinton’s explanation, after years of dawdling, about why the United States was getting involved in Bosnia. He spoke then of America as “the indispensable nation” and said, “There are times when America, and only America can make a difference between war and peace.” 

For Joschka Fischer, a man of the left, the perspective of the Obama administration having turned away from a U.S. role as stability’s ultimate recourse was so dangerous, that “even inveterate anti-Americans will be crying out in the future for the old global order-maker.”
Related: Europeans Hardly Impressed by Obama's Position (or Lack Thereof) on Syria and Its WMD