Obama’s Syria Excuse: They Made Me Do It

By Gary J. Schmitt

AEIdeas

September 18, 2015

Once the news broke that the administration’s plan to train and arm a Syrian opposition force was a complete and utter failure, the White House immediately went into the “it’s not our fault” mode. White House spokesman Josh Earnest — a great name for a press secretary by the way, if it were only true —said that “I think it’s also time for our critics to fess up in this regard as well. They were wrong.” As the New York Times’ Peter Baker writes, “In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has [sic] been vindicated in his original judgment.”

It’s difficult to imagine the administration stooping any lower. This is a president more than willing to ignore black letter law when he wants, but he is now suggesting he was dragged into a program by his Syrian policy critics and his then cabinet secretaries Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Poor guy. Too bad he’s only president.

But this does, of course, help explain why the program has been the failure it has. When the record is opened, undoubtedly one will see that the White House and National Security Council team so complicated the effort with demands and oversight that it was bound to fail. Certainly, recruiting and training a true opposition force can be a significant undertaking, but if the president is playing  the “passive aggressive” card like some malcontent high school student, then, such programs are rarely successful.