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Bad Idea, Mr. President -

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Strangely, despite having committed to arming the rebels, Mr. Obama has yet to exhaust diplomatic efforts, which were inadequate and poorly constructed from the start. The White House’s actions and rhetoric have deprived diplomacy of its most basic prerequisites. Once it called for Mr. Assad to step down in August 2011, the United States fully abdicated the role of a credible arbiter — the core ingredient for eventually moving civil wars toward power-sharing arrangements. Then Washington insisted that Mr. Assad’s departure was required for a political transition to begin. (Its position only recently evolved; now America believes negotiations must end with Mr. Assad’s departure.)

But what’s the point of negotiating a political settlement if the outcome is already predetermined? In order for diplomacy to gain traction, it is the United States, not Russia, that must make the greater compromise and rescind its demands about Mr. Assad’s stepping down as a predetermined outcome.

His current term as president will expire in May 2014, which could provide a face-saving mechanism for a political transition to take place while keeping the institutions of the state intact. If the United States and Russia could agree on that, negotiations could then expand to involve regional Sunni and Shiite powers, who could rein in their proxies in Syria, and finally to a local level, mediating between Assad loyalists and rebels.

Mr. Obama would have been wise to make a forceful diplomatic push first before succumbing to the naïveté of his pro-intervention critics. Intervention in Syria won’t end as Kosovo did for Mr. Clinton.

Syria is like Iraq, except worse.

I agree. Do not arm the rebels. Keep using diplomacy.

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