Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler of the New York Times broke the story on Saturday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had convinced then CIA director David Petraeus to intervene in Syria by arming, training and supporting Western-friendly rebels in Syria. But when they went to the President and the other members of the National Security Council, the plan was scuttled. Obama rightly was concerned that the plan wouls spin out of control and lead to our invading and occupying Syria.
Juan Cole says this points to a “concrete difference between what an Obama presidency looks like and what a Hillary Clinton presidency would have looked like.”
Obama doesn’t like interventions of choice on the ground, and wants the US out of its Middle Eastern land wars. He was happy enough to get out of Iraq altogether. He will be wholly or for the most part out of Afghanistan in a couple of years. His intervention in Libya was forced on him by UK PM David Cameron and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy [not to mention Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice], and it remained a purely from-the-air affair, with no US military engagement in the country after the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Obama’s main form of foreign policy interventionism is a) sanctions (e.g. Iran) and b) drones, as in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. These two techniques may appeal to ground-war-averse Obama as a way of avoiding sending in the infantry, though I suspect Washington underestimates the danger that these two tactics can themselves spiral out of control and lead to military engagement.