By Russ Read
More than 50 US diplomats signed a dissent memo demanding the Obama administration take military action against the Assad regime in Syria, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal report.
In the memo obtained by The New York Times, the disgruntled diplomats say that American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the catastrophic violence in Syria. The signatories call for a “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”
“The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” said the memo. “The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”
The memo was filed through what is known as the State Department’s “dissent channel,” a method that was set up during the Vietnam war which allows serving U.S. diplomats to protest current administration policy without risking their careers. The channel has been frequently used in the past, but the 51 signatories to the current proposal has been described by the Times as “extremely large, if not unprecedented.”
Most of the signatories are reported to be mid-level career diplomats, a great many of whom have worked on Middle Eastern affairs. Though there are no high-ranking names on the list, it is no secret that several officials within the Obama administration have pushed for more decisive action on the Syria conflict.
Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has been particularly vocal on the need for more U.S. involvement on the Syrian conflict. Ford, who served in the country during the peak of the conflict from 2011 to 2014, has been vocally critical of the Assad regime since the conflict began.
“I’m at something of a loss as to what the American strategy, this administration’s strategy, is,” said Ford during an April seminar on Capitol Hill.
Ford has criticized Obama’s unwillingness to stop Assad’s mass murder of his own people. His frustration led him to resign from his post in 2014. The most recent estimates say that as many as 400,000 people have died in the conflict, a great deal of whom are civilians.
“What they are doing to leverage a deal is not clear to me,” said Ford, chastising the administration. “This has always been, for me, the mismatch, between the strategy and the tactics.”
The memo concluded that the U.S. must act, saying “it is time that the United States, guided by our strategic interests and moral convictions, lead a global effort to put an end to this conflict once and for all.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby declined to comment to The New York Times.