SECRETARY KERRY AND THE GENEVA SUMMIT: A COMMENT
"Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them -- along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation -- that President Barack Obama's administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry's view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions. Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that, “I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.” Kerry's presentation to the congressional delegation suggests that, at least in the case of Syria, he believes the U.S. could be doing much more. His enthusiasm for engagement and dissatisfaction with current policy, is in one sense no surprise: Kerry has consistently been the most prominent advocate inside the administration of a more assertive American role in Syria. Who could forget his late August speech, overflowing with Churchillian outrage, in which he promised that the U.S. would hold the Assad regime accountable for the “moral obscenity” of chemical weapons attacks? (This promise was put on hold after Obama declined to strike Syria, and after the Russians negotiated the so-far mainly theoretical surrender of the regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons.) '"Jeffrey Goldberg, "Kerry Tells Senators That Obama Syria Policy Is Collapsing." Bloomberg. 3 February 2014, in www.bloomberg.com. The statement by the American Secretary of State while subsequently disavowed by the American administration no doubt is on the mark 1. The Geneva Conference on Syria is not going to succeed in halting the Syria conflict. Nor au fond was it meant to do so! At least not from the perspective of either the Syrian regime and its main diplomatic backer Moskva. Unfortunately, while it would be the height of Christian charity and goodwill for all the parties to stop fighting, there is currently absolutely no interest by any of the major parties on either side to proceed along these lines (due mostly to the fact that neither side is made up of Christian believers of course...). In short, the fighting in Syria will only end when one side or the other is defeated or is about to be defeated. That may perhaps be a hard truth to accept, but I for one cannot imagine that it is what will eventually occur. To pretend otherwise is an instance of where (to paraphrase Dr. Johnson) hope not so much 'triumphs over experience', as renders it senseless. 1. See on this: Lesley Wroughton, "Obama administration disputes Republicans' account of U.S. policy on Syria." Reuters. 3 February 2014, in www.reuters.com.