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I originally thought I had the Obama administration’s Syria policy and the reasons for it basically figured out (see here). From a recent New York Times article, I have concluded that my assessment of the Obama administration’s Syria policy was essentially correct. I have also concluded that I had vastly overestimated the coherence of Obama’s reasons for his Syria policy. I have concluded that Obama’s Syria policy was much less a result of cold-hearted reasoning (as I had originally thought) than a result of reluctance to have a coherent policy. From the New York Times article, emotions that I simply did not consider in my analysis of Obama’s Syria policy: apathy, indecision, reluctance to act, and fear of taking responsibility, came to the forefront of the Times‘s presentation of the reasons for Obama’s Syria policy. Apparently, Obama’s reluctance to engage in decisive action in Syria in 2011-2012 was a result of certitude of a rebel victory until early 2013, a reluctance of mission creep, and a deep desire to avoid embarrassment for the inevitable clusterfucks that would result from taking decisive action. The 2013 turn-around came due to Samantha Power (and other Obama administration War Hawks)’s strong desire to salvage the remaining chance of a rebel victory. The main Obama administration proponent of the realist strategy for Syria followed by the Obama administration appears to be Denis McDonough.

In conclusion, Obama’s opposition to U.S.-sponsored regime change in Syria may stem from the words “U.S-sponsored” as much as from the words “regime change”. Contrary to my previous strong belief, Obama’s decision not to attack Syria may, in fact, have been influenced by the British House of Commons vote on August 29. I’m still left wondering whether Obama’s Underpants Gnome-style reasoning and refusal to present evidence for Syrian regime culpability for the August 21 attack (which did exist) was a deliberate strategy meant to convince the Saudis and Turks that America was trying to do something while convincing the American and British people that the strike proposal was a very stupid idea proposed by very dangerous people.

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