United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Rachel Martin of National Public Radio, in a new interview released Sunday, that Russia behaved “completely wrongheaded” when it “came in and joined the [Syrian] civil war on the side of [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], further fueling the civil war.” Carter’s statement is an immediately classic example of the pot calling the kettle black. The US government, including the military Carter oversees, long ago committed to supporting another side of the Syrian civil war — the side whose objective is deposing Assad.
After stating this criticism of Russian actions in Syria, Carter immediately follows up with this advice for the Russian government:
[Russia has] more influence with Bashar al-Assad than anybody else. So, the way the civil war is brought to an end and a political transition is, very importantly, the Russians persuading Assad to leave. If they are willing to use their leverage against Assad to achieve that end, that’s very welcome.
Carter thus reveals that his real beef with the Russian government is not that it intervened in Syria. Instead Carter opposes that Russia has chosen to pursue a foreign policy in Syria that differs from and even conflicts with the US dictate that “Assad must go.” Still, Carter is careful not to phrase his objection explicitly this way. Instead, Carter, who is no doubt aware that many Americans are skeptical and wary of foreign intervention, paints Russia as a bad guy for choosing a course of foreign intervention — something the US has also done in regard to Syria.
Indeed, Carter even misleads in the interview with a comment that the US is “not a party — in any formal way — to the Syrian civil war; what we want is an end to the Syrian civil war.” True, the US government does want an end to the civil war — an end in which its side wins.