American lethargy is especially evident in Syria. The potential consequences of getting Syria wrong are serious. What happens could undermine efforts to contain ISIL in Iraq, and could create a situation in which Washington finds itself a prisoner of the Middle East, despite Mr Obama’s aim to ensure the contrary.
It is remarkable that even as the regime of Bashar Al Assad has started to collapse, the Obama administration still has not formulated a clear Syria policy. Instead, it has slogans and a vague plan to train Syrian “moderates” to fight ISIL, a foolish scheme that is bound to fail, particularly as the dynamics of the Syrian conflict shift to removing Mr Al Assad.
Nor has the United States shown much conviction in advancing this strategy. The force it is organising has taken for ever to be armed and trained. The Americans want combatants who will fight ISIL, believing, naively, that if the Assad regime begins disintegrating, these men will continue to serve American interests and not seek to be in on the kill of the regime.
Far more disturbing is that the Obama administration appears to have taken no well-defined positions on what should happen once Mr Al Assad goes. His exit may not be imminent, but as the regime loses ground in the north, south and east, due to the Syrian army’s inability to mobilise enough troops, Mr Al Assad’s days appear to be numbered.