Here's part of Obama's problem:
I bet if you polled one hundred Americans, asking them two questions -- the first being, "What's President Obama's policy in Syria?", and the second being, "Who's the United States Secretary of Labor?" -- more people could answer the second question than the first.
Knowing the answer to the first question doesn't really help all that much:
“We are prepared to work both diplomatically and where we can to support moderate opposition that can help convince the Russians and Iranians to put pressure on Assad for a transition,” Obama told “60 Minutes” in the interview, which was scheduled to air Sunday night. “But … what we are not going to do is to try to reinsert ourselves in a military campaign inside of Syria.”By the term "reinsert ourselves", he apparently means something like "boots on the ground", but not "planes in the air", as you can see if you read further at that WaPo link:
The U.S. military has dropped thousands of bombs on Iraq and Syria since returning to the country last summer to battle the Islamic State. The air attacks have been successful in some parts of the country, but haven’t been able to dislodge the Islamic State militants from their key strongholds in Iraq and Syria.And just last week, he did a little finessing of that half-a-billion-dollar training program that ended up graduating four or five guys:
The Obama administration announced last week that it was ending a blighted $500 million effort to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in favor of a new plan that will provide direct aid to existing rebel units that the Pentagon thinks has a better chance of succeeding against the militants. Obama, who resisted pressure from some of his top national security advisers — including then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — to arm the moderate rebels in the early months of Syria’s civil war, told “60 Minutes” that he had grave doubts about the training program before it even began.
But he pressed forward with it last year out of an instinct to “try different things” to improve the chaotic and deteriorating situation inside the country. Obama said the program failed because it was difficult, if not impossible, to focus the moderate Syrian rebels on fighting the Islamic State when they viewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military as an even greater threat.So what confuses me is, based on all our planes bombing and our trainers training, and now us providing "direct aid to existing rebel units", what exactly does it mean to say "we are not going to do is to try to reinsert ourselves in a military campaign inside of Syria"? Likewise, what do all these critics mean when they accuse Obama of doing nothing? No wonder so many of us are confused by all this.
What do I want our policy to be?
Despite all the missteps and confusion (or maybe because of it), I'd just trust Obama on this. I see the choices he faces in Syria as sort of being, "Do we want to single out one of the random rebel groups to support, then insist they fight who we want to fight, instead of who they want to fight, also taking the chance that they will lose?" or "Do we just stay the hell out of it and watch who ends up the winner?" Sort of like asking, "Would you prefer running out into the deadly surf to save the drowning man, or would you prefer to stay on shore and watch to see if he is able to save himself?"
Yes, I'm sorry Obama ever took that public stand that Assad has to go, I guess placing his bet on the expectation that Assad will eventually be ousted, so we end up on the winning side. We shall have to wait to find out if Putin bet on the wrong horse, especially since he's attacking everyone else, even the group that will probably win the fight.
By the way, Obama's Secretary of Labor is Thomas E. Perez, who's "maternal grandfather," according to his government webpage, "was the ambassador to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the 1930s until he spoke out against his home country's brutal dictator and was declared non grata. His Dominican-born parents eventually settled in Buffalo, N.Y., where Perez was born and raised." Hmm. I find that interesting.