As hard as the Obama Administration tries, the State Department “dissent memo” isn’t going away, and is continuing to dominate discussion of the US war in Syria, with the “dissenters” pushing the US to shift the focus of the entire war to imposing regime change on the Assad government.
A draft version of the memo was finally released over the weekend, and is largely in keeping with what had been reported, arguing that the war against ISIS will fail, and that the US needs a “more muscular military posture” in Syria, aimed squarely at the Assad government. The draft did not include the signatures of the officials.
What we didn’t know earlier in the week was how the argument was made, but this was ultimately not that interesting, resting as most pro-war US policy papers do on appeals to some vague “moral imperative” to impose the US solution on other countries.
The White House insisted they don’t see a “military solution” to Syria, and all indications are that the publicizing of the memo was unwelcome to them, but unlikely to change their policy.
The State Department dissenters’ position echoes that of the CIA, though their argument eschews the appeal to morality and simply claims that any suggestion that the war should focus on ISIS is “Russian propaganda.”
The Pentagon has been squarely against this push, seeing ISIS as the necessary focus of the war, and arguing that the “moderate rebels” the CIA and State want to prop up are largely non-existent, and in practice tend to boil down to al-Qaeda and its allies, along with ISIS itself.
Indeed, back in December it was reported the Pentagon had been secretly undermining a CIA arms smuggling campaign by tipping off the Assad government, because they believed a lot of the weapons were ending up in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda.