FORMER AMBASSADOR ROBERT FORD: ON THE STATE DEPARTMENT MUTINY ON SYRIA
By Robin Wright
The Obama Administration has long been divided over what to do about Syria. The crisis produced one of the biggest differences between President Obama and Hillary Clinton, his first Secretary of State. The policy chasm has only deepened during the five years of conflict, which has now reportedly claimed almost half a million lives. The State Department acknowledged tersely on Friday that more than fifty American diplomats had recently submitted a letter of complaint about U.S. policy in Syria through its Dissent Channel, a sort of complaint box through which employees can voice their disagreement with official policy without fear of reprisal. Travelling in Europe, Secretary John Kerry told reporters, “I think it’s an important statement and I respect the process very, very much, and I will probably meet with people or have a chance to talk when we get back.”
What does the letter of dissent reflect?
Frustration at the State Department has come to a boil. People don’t write in the Dissent Channel every day. The cessation of hostilities in Syria has broken down completely. The bombings of hospitals in Aleppo and Idlib are a violation of every human norm—and that’s not including the barrel bombs and the chemical weapons. The effort to get a political deal is going nowhere. The Assad government has refused to make any serious concessions. It won’t let in food aid, in violation of U.N. resolutions. And the Americans are watching it all happen. So the Dissent Channel message is a reflection of frustration by the people who are responsible for conducting policy on the ground. I felt that way when I left—and that was after Geneva II, in January-February, 2014.
The existing policy is failing and will continue to fail. Why? I don’t sense, in the message, dissent from the strategic objective, which is a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war, but I sense a sharp disagreement with the tactics the Administration is or is not using. The dissent message says that, without greater pressure on the Assad government, it will be impossible to secure the compromises necessary to win a political agreement and end the war. The message says that the Administration needs to reconsider tactics to generate that pressure. Read on... http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/former-ambassador-robert-ford-on-the-state-department-mutiny-on-syria