Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Steven Hadley urged the Obama administration to begin planning for an intervention in Syria, and noted that "Assad must go."
Speaking at an event this afternoon at the Council on Foreign Relations, Albright supported the Obama administration's use of diplomacy and sanctions to pressure Syria's President, Bashar al-Assad, to step down. She noted that "The Obama administration is using the toolbox in a very sequential sort of way" and praised the administration's multilateral approach.
Hadley urged the administration to help organize Syria's opposition along cross sectarian lines, arm resistance through the political opposition there, and prepare now for a possible intervention. He noted that the "lesson if Assad survives" is a bad one for other authoritarian leaders in the Middle East.
Albright quickly cautioned the audience that "intervention" has many different meanings, including humanitarian intervention to help Syrian refugees streaming across the border into Turkey. She also pointed out the need for U.S. actions on Syria to be seen as legitimate in the international community.
Both Albright and Hadley cautioned that a military intervention in Syria would not be the same as in Libya. "Libya was easy, there were population centers on the coast near NATO bases," Hadley pointed out. "We gotta stop kidding ourselves...we haven't yet deployed all the tools to make that happen," he added, in reference to military intervention.
Albright responded to Hadley's comments noting that "The American public is tied of war from Iraq and Afghanistan," and urging policymakers to think about the impact of overthrowing another Muslim country. "What's the exit strategy?" she asked. "What if you make it worse?" She cautioned that "contingency planning is a very big word" in an apparent disagreement with Hadley's focus on military intervention.
The event, moderated by New York Times columnist David Ignatius, marked the release of a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations entitled U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership. The report urges deeper ties between businesses in the United States and Turkey, and urges policymakers to be wary of claims that Turkey is "leaving the West."
"Turkey's major trading partner is Europe," said Steven Cook, a Senior Fellow at CFR who directed the study. He noted that while Turkey was expanding economic trade South, it was by no means disengaging from the West.
With regards to democracy, Hadley was optimistic that the AKP, an Islamist party, could be a force for democracy in Turkey. He also noted that "Turkey and the AKP can be an example for Egypt and Tunisia." Albright was more cautious, noting that "Democracy is not an event, it's a process," though she did agree with Hadley that "Erdogan won elections fair and square." She pointed out that while greater democracy required changes on Erdogan's part, "opposition parties in Turkey were not very functional...they need to get their act together."