There’s an old joke about how it would be nice if there was an American Interests desk at the State Department, since Foggy Bottom was usually more sympathetic to foreign nations than our own. The truth behind that joke is what makes so extraordinary the story the Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight about the 51 State Department employees who have signed a petition calling for a tougher military policy against the Assad regime in Syria:
BEIRUT—Dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.
The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.
The views expressed by the U.S. officials in the cable amount to a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war, a policy that has survived even though the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of violating ceasefire agreements and Russian-backed forces have attacked U.S.-trained rebels.
The Wall Street Journal doesn’t say so directly, but this represents massive internal disgust with the pusillanimity of Obama going on for several years now. That the State Department would want stronger military action is simply extraordinary. Here and there the reality of the matter breaks through:
“It’s embarrassing for the administration to have so many rank-and-file members break on Syria,” said a former State Department official who worked on Middle East policy. . . The recent letter marked a move by the heart of the bureaucracy, which is largely apolitical, to break from the White House.
In other words, this is a no-confidence vote on Obama’s Middle East policy, from a government body that is otherwise endlessly accommodating to drift and indecision.