Anyone wondering just how bad is US foreign policy need only turn to the daily press briefing by the US State Department for an answer. And let me tell you, the answer is it’s really, really bad. Yesterday’s briefing was at the same time one for the record books and par for the course, as State Department Spokesman Admiral John Kirby tried to explain Washington’s uber-incoherent Syria policy.
First, AP diplomatic reporter Matt Lee – an excellent journalist – asked Kirby to explain Washington’s opposition to a Kurdish group in Syria announcing the creation of an autonomous Kurdish area inside Syria. After all, observed Lee, Washington does not believe Assad has the legitimacy to govern Syria so the Kurds are not encouraged to put themselves under the control of the current government in Damascus.
State Department Spokesman Kirby agreed.
But Washington opposes the creation of any autonomous areas inside Syria, so they cannot self-govern.
So where does that leave the Kurds to turn for governance, ISIS?
Please be patient for the extended quote, it really is worth reading the exchange:
MR KIRBY: What we’re trying to get in place, as I said earlier, is good governance in Syria. I’m not going to dispute with you, I certainly would not disagree with you, that there’s not good – that there is no good governance in Syria. We concede that point, which is why the talks in Geneva are so important to try to get at a government that is responsible and responsive to the Syrian people. And we recognize that’s going to take some time. But again, the timeline is around 18 months.
QUESTION: But in the meantime, what are they supposed to do?
MR KIRBY: We want to see the political process move forward. We recognize that –
QUESTION: Well, that’s fine, but that’s going to take months and months.
MR KIRBY: We recognize that that –
QUESTION: Eighteen months. What do they do for the next 18 months?
MR KIRBY: – that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done there, Matt.
QUESTION: What do they do for the next 18 –
MR KIRBY: But in the meantime –
MR KIRBY: – we do not believe the answer is self-autonomous rule in certain zones. We don’t think that’s the answer.
QUESTION: So they should let themselves be governed by Assad –
MR KIRBY: We think the answer is to be found – we think the answer –
QUESTION: – or by the Islamic State?
MR KIRBY: Again, if you let me just finish –
QUESTION: All right.
MR KIRBY: – we think the answer is to be found in the process that has been set forth in two Vienna communiques and the UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: But the problem is that that process is going to take a year and a half, minimum. That’s even – that’s if it works at all. So you’re telling these people in the meantime, “Sorry, you can’t form your own government because we don’t think it’s a good idea, but we don’t have any viable alternative, short of you allowing yourselves to be governed by Assad or you allowing yourselves to be governed by ISIS.”
The State Department believes it has mastered the art of articulating two (or more) completely contradictory positions at the same time, but as you can read above, the resulting dog’s breakfast is a horror to read and probably a hazard to thinking person.
The briefing gets even worse, however, when the discussion turns to the political transition process. State Department Spokesman Kirby outlined the kind of government the US wants to see in Syria:
I’ll say it again. We don’t support self-rule, self – semi-autonomous zones inside Syria. We just don’t. What we want to see is a unified, whole Syria that has in place a government that is not led by Bashar al-Assad, that is responsive to the Syrian people, whole, unified non-sectarian Syria. That’s the goal.
Matt Lee then asked, “if it was the will of the Syrian people as negotiated by their representatives to have a federal system, that the United States could accept that if that was ultimately their chosen outcome. Is that still your policy?”
To which Kirby replied, “We’re not interested in self-rule, self-autonomous zones” (for Syria).
This all leads to Matt Lee summarizing the insanity of US foreign policy better than we’ve seen done in a long time:
QUESTION: So the political transition in Geneva – the Syrians are free to come up with whatever kind of system they want. It’s up to them to decide. But the United States says they can’t have Assad as their leader, and they can’t have a federal system of any sort. How is that leaving it up to the Syrians to decide how they’re going to govern themselves?
MR KIRBY: Let’s take it piece by piece. Yes, it has to be a Syrian-led process and it has to be respectful of Syrian decisions and Syria negotiations, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Unless they decide something that you don’t like, right? The Syrian people are free to choose their own futures – unless they come up with something Washington doesn’t like.
This is Washington’s idea of freedom and sovereignty for Syria (and the rest of the world): you are free to choose your own future as long as you choose the future we want for you.
You can watch these various exchanges starting at 23:45 into this video.
Daniel McAdams is director of the The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity. Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.