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"What Is the U.S. Really Doing in Syria?" UPDATE

Stephen Walt posted this column, and question, a week ago and I read it with interest. Going back to take another look, I was taken with a few points, one apropos of Admiral John McCain's current visit to Syria.

"The Obama administration may secretly welcome the repeated demands for direct U.S. involvement made by war hawks like Sen. John McCain. Rejecting the hawks' demands for airstrikes, "no-fly zones," or overt military aid makes it look like U.S. involvement is actually much smaller than it really is."

Walt's over-all speculation, and he says it's speculation, is that the U.S. is more deeply involved than publicly acknowledged. Furthermore, he sees the Administration's crackdown on leakers as part of an over-all strategy to keep our involvement out of the news.

Walt's other major point: "For Washington, this war has become a golden opportunity to inflict a strategic defeat on Iran and its various local allies and thus shift the regional balance of power in a pro-American direction."

Read the whole speculation here.

UPDATE 5/29: An emerging story: What are Russia and Israel doing in Syria? Russia's promise/threat to send the S-300 air defense system to Syria has brought on a war hoop from Israel Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, who says they will destroy the system if it's delivered. Let's hope they're both playing chicken hawk. Details at Juan Cole.  Pat Lang wonders if this is the beginning of WWIII with a link to a solid Reuters' story.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Good article and I agree that Obama's style is more covert. Whether this is clever or not remains to be seen. I tend to favour transparency, and clarity.

But what on earth does John McCain have to do with any of this?! He is not a member of the cabinet, does not speak for anybody except the people of Arizona. I don't think that it is wise to have American politicians who have not been elected to speak for the US go to these countries where it may appear that they actually do. Sends confusing signals and messages.

Don't know about McCain, but I think he believes he is the war president we need, and Senator Lindsay Graham is his Secy. of Defense. Of course, given Walt's speculation, maybe Obama sent him to see what's going on.

George - in the US there is a long tradition of members of Congress visiting foreign lands in their official capacity.  Congress is a stakeholder in foreign policy and defense policy and also controls the purse strings - presumably, that is the rationale for the practice.


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