According to yesterday’s New York Times, a 2013 classified study examined the results of CIA experiences in arming and training rebel groups in other countries. The conclusion: ‘many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict.’ The only ‘successful’ example the report could come up with was the support given to the Afghan mujahideen which led to the toppling of the Najibullah government in 1992. But given the subsequent history of Afghanistan even this doesn’t look too good.
Despite this dismal track record, President Obama has given the go-ahead to the CIA to arm and train Syrian rebels in an effort to defeat the Islamic State and overthrow Bashar al-Assad. It is not as if Obama didn’t know better – he had apparently read the CIA report and didn’t want to support the Syrian rebels. But eventually he caved in to pressure from the CIA and the Department of State. He felt the need to show the American public that he was doing something. Thus, foreign policy, as so often, was subordinated to domestic politics, and the president approved a policy he surely understood was bound to fail.
Insanity, Albert Einstein supposedly said, consists of ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ If that is the case, then American foreign policy is insane.