Obama’s legacy on foreign policy could hinge on outcome with Syria

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“People who decry international inaction in Rwanda and say, ‘How terrible it is that there are these human rights violations that take place around the world, and why aren’t we doing something about it?’” he said. “And they always look to the United States. ‘Why isn’t the United States doing something about this, the most powerful nation on earth? Why are you allowing these terrible things to happen?’”

Incoherent foreign policy

Rwanda is one of the “moral strings that the administration can pull,” said Brett Schaefer, a foreign policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But Mr. Schaefer said the president’s decisions to seek congressional approval and then to pursue a belated course of action at the United Nations are evidence that he has lacked a consistent policy on Syria ever since he said the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” requiring tougher U.S. action.

“I am utterly convinced that there is no coherent strategy at all in the administration’s approach to Syria,” Mr. Schaefer said. “The administration felt painted into a corner by the president’s ‘red line’ comments a year ago. They felt that their credibility was on the line and thus they had to do something about it. But ultimately the president did not want to take action, and therefore he kicked the ball over to Congress. And then Secretary Kerry’s impromptu remarks were subsequently seized by the Russians and the Syrians. [They have] taken the initiative completely away from the administration. They’re along for the ride at this point.”

The president and his top aides have said Russia and Syria would not have agreed to discuss a deal without the threat of U.S. military force.

But Friday, Ms. Power argued in a speech that further efforts to punish Syria through the United Nations would be futile.

“Does anybody really believe that deploying the same approaches we have tried for the last year will suddenly be effective?” she said.

Ms. Brown said the president could get lucky if the approach at the United Nations somehow bears diplomatic fruit.

“It is possible that Assad could give up those weapons and perhaps it could heal some of the rifts that have occurred with Russia lately,” she said. “If we’re all the sudden siding with Russia and this becomes a bridge through which we could work, there’s a possibility it could be in [Obama’s] favor” from a historical point of view.

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