Really, I don’t care if there is an American ambassador in Damascus. It’s true, given the environment, that he might be shot by terrorists. But, otherwise, why not? We had U.S. diplomats in Tokyo, Berlin and Rome until just after Pearl Harbor. Of course, they did no good. But probably, they also did no harm—except prolonging the illusion that America was at peace with the host countries.
Why doesn't the administration just say that we are returning to our embassy in Syria because Syria is a player in the Middle East? Basta!
It is true, of course, that this re-establishment of relations with the Assad regime puts an end to the international cordon sanitaire around the killers of the Lebanese president, Rafiq Hariri, five years ago and the concomitant to bring his murderers to justice. But since his son, Saad, who had sworn to avenge his father and to liberate his country from the brutal hand of the Damascus tyranny, long ago capitulated to the gruesome deal treacherously engineered by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to reintegrate Syria into Lebanese politics, there was no energy left for the effort. Sarah Lynch has written a heartrending story for Forbes about the psychological depression in the country that now knows it is, once again, far from independent but under the heel of the Assad clan of Alawites, a tiny minority gangster clan.
So the Cedar Revolution is now officially over, with its leading lights kow-towing to Hezbollah and its neighbor to the east.
Apparently, the designation by the president of Robert Ford as U.S. ambassador comes on the heels of George Mitchell's ever-optimistic news from Arab capitals. After visiting Damascus, the special envoy (one of ever-so-many special envoys) reported that the Syrian dictator—I’m certain he didn't call him that—was ready for peace with Israel, disengagement from Hassan Nasrallah and his bloody movement of Shi'a fanatics and, to top it all off, separation from his financial and military angel, the regime in Tehran. The fact is that the only factors that make anyone care about Syria at all are these three relationships. Only a fool can see President Assad suborning them to intangible good will from America. Am I saying that Mitchell is a fool? Not exactly. But he is certainly complaisant. And the smallest courtesies enthuse him.
The president this week also sent senior State Department diplomat William Burns to meet with Bashar Assad. And it's no surprise that the cloyingly sentimental Huffington Post took the bait underlying the new relationship between the U.S. and Syria: “As Obama foreign policy becomes clearer, particularly with a harder line against Iran, it is increasingly apparent that Syria would be Washington's golden egg.” (I am tempted to ask: What “harder line” against Iran?) Here's the scenario: “A Damascus wooed away from Iran, party to talks with Israel and supportive of counter-terrorism and anti-Islamist campaigns throughout the Middle East would be a boon to American foreign policy.” From Ms. Huffington's mouth to God's ears. Or Mr. Burns’ mouth.
I'm afraid that Obama believes this is a plausible reality. I hope he's right. Do I think so? Not at all.