FP alum Josh Rogin, now plying his trade over at the Daily Beast, had a scoop yesterday: The White House has requested that the Pentagon draw up plans for implementing a no-fly zone in Syria. While President Barack Obama hasn’t made any decisions yet, an administration official affirmed, "the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been."
Rogin knows his stuff, and I have no reason to doubt the story is true. But this leak, suggesting America’s policy on Syria is poised to change radically, sounds eerily familiar. Here is a trip down memory lane:
May 3, 2013: "U.S. Considering Arming Syria Rebels." –Radio Free Europe
April 5, 2013: "The White House … is reviewing a new set of potential military options for assisting rebels in Syria." –Wall Street Journal
March 15, 2013: "CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes" –Los Angeles Times
Feb. 26, 2013: "U.S. moves toward providing direct aid to Syrian rebels" –Washington Post
Feb. 7, 2013: "Pentagon leaders favored arming Syrian rebels" –Washington Post
Dec. 3, 2012: "The White House has been loath to make a direct intervention in Syria but clearly indicated Monday that the use of chemical weapons could change the equation."-AFP
Nov. 28, 2012: "The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power." –New York Times
Feb. 22, 2012: "Shelling of Homs resumes as U.S. signals possibility of arming Syrian opposition" –Al-Arabiya
Feb. 8, 2012: "International ‘militarisation’ in Syria growing closer, warns US official" –Telegraph
To be clear, none of these stories is inaccurate. They all quote Obama administration officials’ remarks about the options currently on the table to respond to the Syrian crisis. They always note that the White House is considering its options — not that the president has made a decision yet.
But just because these articles aren’t wrong doesn’t mean they shed much light on what the Obama administration is thinking on Syria. It’s the job of large swathes of the U.S. defense establishment to prepare options in the event that Obama decides to intervene more aggressively. Roughly 24,000 people work in the Pentagon alone — if one team in the building is mulling efforts to arm the rebels or implement a no-fly zone, it’s fair game for a newspaper to write that the Defense Department is in the planning stages on those options. But that doesn’t mean the possibility will ever become a reality.
Collectively, all these articles suggest that U.S. policy toward Syria is in a state of flux — any moment now, the blaring headlines suggest, Washington could jump headfirst into this conflict. In reality, U.S. policy has been fairly constant: The Obama administration provides humanitarian and non-lethal aid to the opposition, but largely is opposed to entangling the American military in the conflict. Like anything else, that could change. But more than two years into this war, the picture should be pretty clear.
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| Report |