via Lobe Log

Michele Flournoy, who served from 2009 to 2012 as the first female Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was described as one of “the new realists” by the New York Observer, distinguishing her from Clinton Administration “liberal interventionists”, though like them she argued for “forward engagement” by the US abroad, especially in the Middle East, and warned against the rapid drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan. In this interview with The Chronicle, she offers some comments on the Administration’s Syrian strategy (or lack thereof):

The Syria situation is much more complex and difficult in the sense that you have a divided opposition, you have a division of opinion on the part of the surrounding countries as to whether they want any outside intervention, you have Russia and China clearly opposing any U.N. sanctioning of any intervention and you have a much more capable military on the ground.

It is less clear in the case of Syria whether an intervention would actually help the situation or whether it would make it worse. Instead, the Obama administration has focused on providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people on the ground, pressuring the Assad regime to step down through sanctions and other pressure and working with the opposition so they can build their cohesion. [This way], they can provide a viable alternative to the regime and present a transition plan that actually allows people to change sides and jump on board a new government.

….Whenever you’re thinking about intervention you really have to have a sense of clarity about the mission and how the intervention will actually get you to a better position over time.

Again, in Syria, the opposition has not wanted outside military intervention, they wanted support. I think the administration along with several of our international partners are providing that. But it’s always a combination of factors, and each case is unique. I think the administration has had a consistent, principled approach to the Arab Spring, but the truth is each of these countries is in a unique situation and our policy has to be tailored to a case-by-case basis.

Some opposition forums, such as the Syrian National Council and the “Syrian Support Group,” a North American lobby for several anti-Assad militias, have called for direct US military intervention, but the “Free Syrian Army” — increasingly seen as the main fighting force against Assad in Western and Arab capitals — is an umbrella organization and its headquarters in Turkey have not issued an official call for direct foreign intervention.

Turkey allows the FSA to operate on its soil and recently passed a parliamentary measure for “cross-border raids” into Syria after Syrian artillery fire killed Turkish civilians, resulting in a round of shelling against Syrian positions over the border by Turkish forces.