Editor’s note: On NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Robert Kagan discusses the foreign policy challenges and decisions that President Obama may face in his second term. Read an excerpt below.
Neal Conan: And Robert Kagan, as well, you know the – one of the concerns is if you supply effective weaponry to the opposition groups, that weaponry will fall into the hands of those jihadists we’ve been talking about.
Robert Kagan: Well, that’s been the concern of the administration for a long time. I’m afraid, though, that, you know, the longer this has gone on, the greater the likelihood that the jihadists are going to be big forces. I think the only thing that I – one of the things that I worry about now is we have not seen the worst that Bashar has to deal out in terms of dealing with the population.
He is not Mubarak, and clearly the Syrian military is not quite the Egyptian military, which refused to fire on the people, ultimately, and whether Mubarak ordered it and they didn’t do it or whether he wouldn’t even order it, it’s not clear. The Syrian air force certainly is already doing this. And I worry about this Internet blackout as a time when he may carry out things that we’ve haven’t even begun to see yet, in which case I think that the United States and the world is going to carry a very heavy moral burden, and we will wind up being forced, as we were for instance after Srebrenica, to take action, maybe sooner.
And then we’re not going to be talking about how many, you know, shoulder-fired anti-air missiles are in people’s hands. We’re going to be in a much bigger situation.
Conan: Are you talking about chemical weapons here?
Kagan: No, I’m talking about the need to respond to massive slaughter that has just reached a stage that the world can’t, that we can’t and many others can’t tolerate anymore. And then we need to start looking at options that don’t take six or eight months, and we hope Bashar falls.
The French might have been presumptuous, or a bit too clever, in seeing Trump only as an opportunity. It comes with a cost. The cost being the division of Europe... [Trump's] clear favoritism [for nationalist-led countries like Poland, Hungary, and Italy can exacerbate divisions within Europe]... Macron wants to be a strong leader that Trump disagrees with but respects for being strong.