Middle East oldthink

Writing in The New York Times, Middle East “expert” Flynt Leverett provides a classic example of US foreign policy oldthink. It ought to be preserved in amber, along with Henry Kissinger’s memos from the 1970s, for future generations to ponder.

…In the end, the most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage and empower [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him.
The Bush administration can elicit more sustained improvements in Syrian behavior on Iraq and terrorism by using the threat of intensified criticism of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon – including Security Council action – as a badly needed stick in the repertoire of policy options toward Syria. Washington should also not be afraid to spell out for Mr. Assad the carrots it would offer in return for greater cooperation.

Engage and empower Assad– probably the biggest single obstacle to democratic progress in the Middle East– while holding in reserve the dreaded threat of intensified criticism? Um, no. How about taking James Carville’s sage political advice instead?

When your opponent is sinking, toss him an anvil.