“The chemical weapons thing just drives me nuts,” Crocker said. “The red line that Obama didn’t honor and Trump did by dropping missiles — how was that interpreted in Syria? ‘You go ahead and kill all the Syrians you want, but don’t use chemical weapons.’ But you can buy bombs from us!”
Drawing on his experience, he offered an alternative response.
“All they needed to say was, ‘Chemical weapons aren’t unique to this war,” he said. “They’ve been prohibited since 1920 for good reason. They should not be used for any reason, and we’re prepared to stick up for it.”
But that criticism was part-and-parcel of a much larger issue: When it comes to Damascus, neither Obama nor Trump really knows what to do, Crocker claimed.
“There’s strong continuity between the Obama and Trump administrations,” Crocker said. “That’s the good news. It’s also the bad news. Neither have a clue about what we could do to make [Syria] better.”
He added, “I trust [Defense Secretary] James Mattis, but… at a strategic level we’re not thinking long and hard enough about why we’re keeping troops there.”
The premium Crocker places on strong continuity is, perhaps, part of why he was troubled by the op-ed in the New York Times written by an anonymous senior official in Trump’s administration. In that op-ed, the writer alleges that she or he, joined by other senior officials in the White House, “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
“Whatever we might think about the election, he’s our president.” Crocker said of the op-ed. “We damn well better hope he succeeds, because if he doesn’t we all fail.”