Where We Live
11:26 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Ryan Crocker: U.S. Needs Diplomatic Officers in Syria

As the civil war in Syria continues to wreak havoc on the country, President Barack Obama is facing political pressure to respond. 

In a news conference earlier this week, Obama addressed evidence that chemical weapons were used in that country - something he says could be a "game changer."

Ryan Crocker is a former U.S. Ambassador in the Middle East and is currently a Senior Fellow at Yale. Speaking on WNPR's Where We Live, he described the conflict as "the problem from hell."

"Whatever we do has to make the situation better, not worse," said Crocker. "And I'm not quite sure he has many options." Drawing a "red line" in regards to chemical weapons use, was not the best strategy for Obama.

"If you're going to stake out a clear position, then you need to have the plan and the means to back it up and it's not clear that we have either," said Crocker.

The former ambassador cited a recent poll, that showed a lack of support among the American public for an intervention in Syria. This likely plays a role in the Obama administration's response. "Foreign policy is always conducted in a domestic context," said Crocker.

One option that Crocker does support is more diplomatic boots on the ground. Despite the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya last year, he says violence against diplomats comes with the territory.

"It's important that we accept that our foreign service officers need to run risks for the sake of our national security."

Crocker, who also served as ambassador in Pakistan, spoke out against the wide-spread use of drones. "They are not a strategy," he said. "It isn't going to work for us if we say, 'Ok, it's drones everywhere, all the time.' It is one weapon, one tool that needs to be judiciously used in coordination with other countries involved. It can't substitute for an entire nuanced counter-terrorist strategy."

Drones were used during his time in Pakistan and he discussed the host country's knowledge of unmanned operations. "Some of these decisions went all the way to President Musharraf. Sometimes he denied permission because of his concern that the adverse political or public reactions could be more harmful than the individual proposed for targeting."

Crocker's most recent job with the Foreign Service was in Afghanistan from 2011-2012.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published a report on Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office receiving bags of "ghost money" from the CIA.

Crocker declined to comment directly on the story, but did address the relationship between federal agencies operating overseas.

"In a well-managed embassy, there should be no surprises, no dual-track policies. The ambassador must be aware of everything that is going on because he or she has ultimate responsibility."

Listen to the full interview with Ryan Crocker.

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