By Nicholas D. Kristof

Syrian rebel fighters in Aleppo on Monday

President Obama’s finest moments in foreign policy, like the Osama bin Laden raid or the Libya intervention, resulted from close engagement and calculated risks.

His lapses come when he’s passive or AWOL — as in Syria. I’m generally a fan of Obama’s foreign policy, but on Syria there’s a growing puzzlement around the world that he seems stuck behind the curve.

The United States shouldn’t invade Syria. But we should work with allies to supply weapons, training and intelligence to rebels who pass our vetting.

I’m in Aspen for the annual meeting of the Aspen Strategy Group, a bipartisan group looking at international affairs, and I’m struck by how many strategists whom I respect think it’s time to move more aggressively.

William Perry, a secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, told me that if he were in the Pentagon today, he would be recommending a military intervention in Syria — conditioned on Turkey’s participation and without ground forces. Specifically, he said he would favor imposing a no-fly no-drive zone in northern Syria.

“This isn’t a full strategy, but it could facilitate the overthrow of Assad and have a real humanitarian benefit,” Perry said. “And if successful, it could help us influence the post-Assad government. If we sit by, we’ll be in no position to influence it.” Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on August 8, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 9, 2012, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Obama AWOL In Syria).


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