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
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
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.”