With the return of Obama to the White House, it is very possible that we could see a continuation of his failed foreign policy on Syria. If there is a time to recalibrate a policy it is now. Both Obama and Romney stressed that the situation in Syria is unacceptable and that Assad is to blame and has to go. In furtherance of that belief, Obama has turned a blind eye to Jihadists obtaining American Stinger missiles and the arming of Jihadists by Qatar and enabled by Turkey.
These new weapons have allowed to the rebels to repel Syrian government forces but in the process destroy property and kill Syrian citizens. If one is a person whose natural insticnt is to cheer the removal of a nominal dictator than one is cheered by such news. Yes, it is unfortunate that citizens are killed and property destroyed but that is a 'small' price for the freedom that will be won.
If one follows that logic than Obama's policy towards Syria makes sense. However, there is an essential point missed and it is the question "freedom for whom and freedom from what? If freedom of the individual is wanted than Assad must remain and if it is freedom from impositon of hardline Islamic Jihadism than Assad must remain. Why, Because Assad is an avowed secualrist and the rebels are avowed Islaimists.
When one looks at the Syrian rebellion in context of the other Arab countries that were convulsed in the "Arab Spring," one can see that the primary difference between Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria was the economic strength of the nations. Tunisia a small country that had essenially become the fiefdom of the President and its Congress a rubber stamp. Note, that the rebellion was literally sparked by a Tunisian putting himself on fire. In Egypt, the nation had essentially been in a state of martial paralysis since the assasination of Sadat some 30 years before. It's potential was stymied by the ossification of an aged dictator who essentially left the running of the country to cronies and took his 10 percent. In both cases, the welfare of the people was held back becuase of the greed and despotism of their leaders. In both situations, it was proper for the United States to come on the side of those who wanted freedom from the hold of despots. The removal of those leaders allows the country to transit from ossification to new energy. In both cases, death and destruction was very minimal because there was no sectarian element to the rebellion.
Some would like to compare Syria with Libya in that both have a sole leader who is head of the country and is its face. To do so, would be wrong. Gaddafi ruled by division. Libya is a country of tribes and he ruled by pitting one tribe against another. This is why Beghazi became the focal point of the rebellion because its leaders were primarily from the regional tribes located around it.Syria is a country of law and its power is diffused between different groups. It has an judiciary and the laws are followed by all including Assad.
Because Syria is fundementally different it has to be approached witn more sensitivity and nuance.There is no doubt that a government elected by a people and accountable to its people is the ultimate goal. However, to believe that removing Assad brings with it freedom is wrong. Even though the Baath Party with Assad as its leader has ruled Syria for 40 years, it has allowed all sects to prosper and it has allowed its minorities to be safe in their own country something that cannot be said to be true in any other Arab country. As we saw in Iraq this freedom of minorites comes at a price and tha price has been the sacrifice of a person's most fundamental poltical right-the right to choose one's leader.
It is this right that the rhetoric of freedom is so attached; and it is this idea that has been the motvation behind worlwide condemnation ( by some of the best hypocrites around-the Europeans) on Assad defending his country by killing rebels. It is an almost automatic reflex. Assad is a dictator so he is wrong if he defends his country agains people who want to bring him and the government down. The ridiculousness of that position is that Assad is not doing anything different than any other country- the U.S. included.
The Syrian rebellion is not so much motivated by this idea of political accountability as it is motivated by sectarianism. Rebels and political leaders are all Sunnis have not taken any steps to include minorities. Instead, they have embraced Jiihadists groups like Jamat Nusra and other Al qaida inspired groups. This is in itself more than a wake up call for us and it is a red flag that must be acknowledged by Obama. By supporting the rebellion, we are supporting a mortal enemy. Of course, there is an old arab saying " the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The policy that should be espoused is a political transition in which Assad remains in power for a periond of 5 years and during that time a consititution is created that provides for the needed right and protections for all Syrians of whatever sect or creed. It also provides for the sharing of power that does not dilute the power of the central government like it does in neighboring Lebanon.
After 5 years an election is held and Assad steps down and hands power over to the newly elected President. Ironically, the key here is Assad because it is Assad that the majority of Syrian 's trust and it is him that Islamists hate.
Obama must reign in Clinton and establish a policy that does not throw the baby wth the bathwater.