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Michael Barone: I was wrong on Syria

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Syria,Foreign Policy

Like most journalists, I like to point back to predictions which proved true and analyses which proved prescient. Also like most journalists–and unlike the great political reporter and columnist David Broder, who wrote a column every year setting forth his mistakes–I don’t like to look back to the times I was wrong. So let me confess that the final sentence my last Sunday Washington Examiner column June 9 has been proven wrong with unusual speed.

“Obama seems likely to continue his policy of inaction in Syria, for which America will probably pay a price–if not immediately, then some time in the future,” I wrote. Five days later the president let it be known that the U.S. government would provide aid to Syrian rebels. It’s not clear what this will amount to and whether it includes providing arms–Lee Smith has a good analysis of this ambiguity on the Weekly Standard website–but it seems impossible to argue that it’s a continuation of a “policy of inaction.”

Did this result from change of personnel, the announced replacement of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon with the reputedly more intervention-minded Susan Rice? Will our French and British allies, who have seemed more intent on intervening in Syria, take the lead, leaving the United States “leading from behind,” as an Obama adviser (Donilon? Ben Rhodes?) told the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza? Will the intervention succeed? Will the United States pay a greater or lesser price for intervention than it has paid or would have paid for a policy of inaction?

In a spirit of earned humility, I will not try to answer those questions today.

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