The Obama administration struggled when it came to Syria. That struggle was honestly arrived at. It pitted a brutal tyrant, massacring his own people, against a deeply unstable region beset by factionalism (of which ISIS was only the most terrifying), coupled with an America chastened in its ability to effectuate positive regional change at gunpoint from the debacle in Iraq and, more recently, Libya. That is not a cocktail which lends itself to any simple solution.
Of course, some people were less forgiving. Lee Smith at Tablet was brutal in lambasting Obama for his softness on Syria. And perhaps nobody was more viciously targeted than his UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, whom Smith deemed the "Ambassador from Hell." Power had and remained a constant and vocal critic of Assad and his barbaric attacks on civilian populations. But her inability to actually translate such vocalizations into tangible actions aimed at getting Assad out made her into a monster. Syria would be her everlasting shame.
Sadly, as much as some folks might miss it, Obama is no longer the President. Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office, and Nikki Haley is our UN Ambassador. A change of tone in the air? You could say so: Haley just announced that the US no longer cares if Assad stays or goes at all. She's right in line with the rest of the Trump administration -- Sean Spicer lectured the press corps that we needed to accept the "political reality" of Assad's leadership.
Now just to be clear: My opening paragraph continues to reflect my view on Syria. It doesn't become less knotty or nettlesome just because Trump's in office. And while I am (I believe justly) skeptical of the Trump administration's ability to successfully navigate such a delicate and thorny situation, there is no obvious path for Trump to take that one can fairly lambaste him for foregoing.
But Smith clearly didn't agree. He had no hesitation about drawing deep from the rhetorical well, and never assuming complexity when malice would suffice. So can we look forward to blistering editorials about how Nikki Haley is forever tarnished, a tool of genocidaires with the blood of countless Syrians on her hands? Can we expect him to speak of Trump's "deliberate" decisions to allow civilians to die, the better to snuggle up to his pals in Russia?
Color me dubious. Once Obama's gone, it's amazing how passé these hysterics suddenly get.