Ah crap. A couple of months ago, President Obama caved in to the hawks and announced $127 million in "nonlethal" aid to the Syrian rebels. Today he caved in again and trotted out Ben Rhodes to announce a further escalation. We'll now be sending some decidedly lethal aid to the rebels:
The United States has concluded that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in its fight against opposition forces, and President Obama has authorized direct U.S. military support to the rebels, the White House said Thursday…Rhodes did not detail what he called the expanded military support, but it is expected initially to consist of light arms and ammunition. He said the shipments would be "responsive to the needs" expressed by the rebel command.
The next step, of course, is to cave in to the hawks and send the rebels the antitank and antiaircraft weaponry they want. I figure, what? Another couple of months before Obama decides to do that? Then the no-fly zone. Then…something else.
The official justification for the new arms shipments is verification of some "small scale" use of sarin gas by the Assad regime. However, the real justification seems to be this:
After weeks of efforts to organize a conference at which the Assad government and the opposition were to negotiate a political transition, the administration is now slowing down that effort, fearful that if it were held now, Mr. Assad would be in too strong a position to make any concessions…Now, an administration official said, the focus will switch from setting a date to fortifying the rebels before they sit across the table from the government.
Great. So now we're committed to continuing escalation until Assad cries uncle and agrees to come to the table. That strategy doesn't have a sterling track record.
This seems like a good time to embed this video of Fareed Zakaria explaining why it's such a bad idea to intervene in Syria. This isn't just the usual anti-intervention shtick, either. It's a broad overview of who's who and why Syria's civil war is likely to last a very long time indeed. It's well worth five minutes of your time.