The ongoing bloody crisis in Syria is only becoming worse because of the West's stuttering and the international community's powerlessness. More than pointing to the strength of Russia, which still opposes any military intervention in Syria, it reveals the weakness of the U.S.
Washington is paralyzed, for several main reasons, in the face of the massacres carried out by the regime in Damascus. There is the fresh memory of American blood spilled in Iraq. American troops, meanwhile, are still mired in the Afghan mud despite the desire to remove them, and evacuation has been set only for 2014. These are only part of the reasons behind the helplessness exhibited by the U.S. The difficult economic problems and the unwillingness to saddle the U.S. defense budget with yet another burden, and the fact that President Barack Obama is in the midst of a contested re-election campaign, all add to the paralysis of U.S. foreign policy and create a vacuum which allows new-but-old players back in the game. This became evident when France took the lead during the Libyan crisis, and is the case once again with Russian opposition to military intervention in Syria.
The fact that the U.S. altered its policy from unilateralism from the days of President George W. Bush to one of needing as many partners as possible to manage any of Obama's campaigns only makes the situation worse. In essence, the U.S. is bringing the Cold War back. It is a war in which the guiding principle is containment rather than victory. We have only to ask the constant question — is it good for the Jews? Is it good for Israel?
Beyond the accurate cliche that a weak U.S. translates into a weak Israel, a cold war, with its key strategy of containment, has consequences in the struggle against Iran. The justified Israeli concern is that the U.S. is ultimately liable to shift to a policy of containment against Iran. It is a policy in which the U.S. will only threaten to use force against a nuclear Iran and will not actually use it to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear.
Let us recall that the current administration has not been loath to leak information, for example on Israel's military cooperation with Azerbaijan, or to offer assurances of massive military aid for Israel in order to prevent it, God forbid, from attacking Iran.
If the U.S. doesn't intervene soon, it will be evident that the Syrian arena isn't the exception to the rule; rather it is the rule itself. The U.S. must act because it's not "just the economy, stupid" — it's also foreign policy. Maybe what is needed is another Hollywood actor like Ronald Reagan, who will make sure to return America to its natural status as the winner of the Cold War and the leader of the Free World. For now, only in Hollywood do the good guys always win in the end.
The writer is Israel's former consul-general in Los Angeles.