Obama and arming the Syrian rebels

Article Highlights

  • Military leader, DoD leader, SecState all supported arming the rebels. Who didn’t? Barack Obama

    Tweet This

  • US has both moral and strategic interests in seeing moderate and secular forces in Syria

    Tweet This

Yesterday, both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and outgoing SecDef Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they supported arming the rebels in Syria. We also know that Hillary Clinton supported doing the same. So…let’s get this straight. Military leader, DoD leader, SecState all supported arming the rebels. Who didn’t? Barack Obama and his coterie in the White House.

Now, that’s perfectly legitimate. The national security team works for and at the pleasure of the president of the United States. He is free to heed or dismiss their counsel. Having done so, however, we must clearly understand that the fiasco that is the war in Syria is Obama’s and Obama’s alone.

Remember, no one suggested “boots on the ground” in Syria; no one wanted US forces involved except possibly for the purpose of guaranteeing safe corridors. The only thing that those of us who argued for arming the rebels believed was that the United States is a better arbiter of good guy vs bad guy among the rebels than Gulf leaders; that subcontracting to others when in our interest is the right call; that the surest blow to Iran would be to depose Bashar al Assad; and that the United States has both moral and strategic interests in seeing moderate and secular forces in Syria empowered and in charge in Damascus.

Now, none of this will happen. 80,000+ people are dead. Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have established a beachhead in Syria. The protracted war and the aftermath are likely to destabilize a NATO ally (Turkey), an Arab leader (Jordan’s Abdullah), Lebanon, Iraq, and the Israeli-Syrian border. The future of Syria post-Assad is in question. And who owns this epic disaster? Barack Obama. Perhaps he should have listened to wiser counsel. Instead, he has searched for less independent thinkers to fill the ranks of his national security team. To paraphrase from the Good Book, it is clear that an unwise man will ignore and refuse learning, and a man without understanding will attain foolish counsel. Indeed.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5943
    Email: dpletka@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alexandra Della Rocchetta
    Phone: 202-862-7152
    Email: alex.dellarocchetta@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.