by Michael Young
The State Department has a different perspective. It believes an ambassador in
The senators, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responded that Ford's appointment would be a concession, even a reward, "if engagement precludes prompt punitive action in response to egregious behavior, such as the transfer of long-range missiles to a terrorist group." The Republicans want new sanctions to be imposed on
The points of view on both sides conceal a far more significant problem. Undue focus on whether an ambassador should be sent to Damascus or not is secondary to the fact that the Obama administration is not really clear about how to bring about a change in Syrian behavior where it has demanded such change – namely Syria's ending its destabilization of Iraq, its support for Hamas and Hizbullah, and its efforts to reassert its hegemony over Lebanon.
Naming an ambassador should only be a means of advancing policy. But because the policy is unclear, the appointment process has taken center stage. For the State Department to defend an ambassador as necessary to get Assad's ear is ridiculous. In itself, the transmission of messages is not, and should not be, what justifies a significant political reversal, especially when the previous ambassador was pulled because the
On the other hand, the Republicans, by making Ford the issue, have also confused matters. The sanctions they are demanding may be justified, but sanctions, like the dispatching of an ambassador, do not in themselves constitute policy; they are instruments of policy. What the Republicans (and Democrats) should be asking of the Obama administration is whether its engagement strategy with Syria has any chance of succeeding – and if not what must be done to ensure it succeeds – and whether American strategy is cohesive, so that a dialogue with Syria does not actually give it wider latitude to pursue those very aims that Washington is seeking to undermine.
If the dispute over an ambassador is a red herring, oddly enough so too is the discussion over Scuds. If or when a war occurs between Hizbullah and
Syrian weapons to Hizbullah appear to be there to serve a more complex purpose. I continue to believe that the primary Syrian objective is to create the proper conditions for a Syrian military return to
But there are more pragmatic reasons as well. Only a military presence allows the Syrian regime to control
The absence of a credible UN-sponsored post-conflict framework would be
That's where the hard questioning should come in
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
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