Article

How to Win the Vote – and War – in Syria

Published

3rd September 2013

President Barack Obama’s surprise decision to seek congressional authorization for punitive cruise missile strikes against Syrian government targets presents the West with a perhaps final opportunity to align rhetoric with reality, and policy with purpose, in its response to the Syrian civil war.

The bad news is that the White House, by gambling on its ability to convince a recalcitrant Congress to go against an isolationist public mood, has opened itself up to the very real possibility of defeat as its opponents will seek to embarrass what they consider a reluctant, irresolute Commander-in-Chief. The good news is that that path to winning the vote in Washington is paved with setting out a new and credible course for a diplomatic solution to the crisis that can justify an act of war.

This is not the contradiction in terms that the debates in Western capitals to date might suggest. If anything, the complete absence of a definition of strategic success is the single most important source of the disarray that defines the status quo. The schizophrenia at the heart of Western policy to date was on full display throughout the shambolic events in Westminster and Washington over the past week. The failure of David Cameron’s government to win a parliamentary mandate for action, and of the Obama White House to carry through promptly on its red line rhetoric was, in truth, far less about the poisonous legacy of the Iraq war than about the lack of answers to the most basic questions regarding the use of force in Syria.

What are the “strictly limited” cruise missile strikes intended to achieve, besides a vague and inherently intangible attempt to “uphold international norms” — even as they would constitute a clear violation of the U.N. Charter? What do we expect the strikes to have done to the balance of power in the civil war once the dust settles? Is there any evidence to suggest that such pin-prick attacks will change the strategic calculus among Assad’s top generals — the only real threat to his rule? The uncomfortable reality is that no one seems to know, or even care very much — as long the West is seen to have “done something.”

Two years after the beginning of the conflict — and countless lost opportunities to create the genuine global coalition for a political transition in Syria later — the unspoken prevailing sentiment among Western security and intelligence officials is that the only outcome worse than Assad prevailing in the civil war is a victory by a rebel coalition increasingly judged to be dominated by extremists and jihadists whose model for a future Syria looks a lot more like Taliban-era Afghanistan than a pluralist democracy. But to assume that a bloody, deteriorating stalemate between two scorpions in a bottle is the best of a series of bad options mocks our ostensible concern for the people of Syria, ignores the risks of further regional instability and, most importantly, misses the opportunity — even at this late hour — to forge a global alliance for change in Damascus, and an end to the war.

Before this can be done, however, two things are necessary. First, there must be an end to the amateurish U.S. insults directed at those members of the Security Council whose support and engagement is required to achieve a united front against the Assad regime. Until now, this behavior has had the predictable consequence of hardening their opposition to Western policy — even after the regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons — and has left Assad with little to worry about regarding genuine pressure on the pillars of his regime. Second, U.S. and UK officials should go back to the drawing board of strategic interests in the Syria conflict — their own, and those of the key members of the Security Council — where they will discover that there is a great deal more that unites the key powers than divides them.

Neither Russia nor China — the key obstacles to effective Security Council pressure on Assad — wish to see Syria descend into a jihadist haven; they both want a stable government that is considered legitimate and accountable to all parts of the fracturing Syrian polity; they want to avoid another break with the West over the use of military force in the Middle East in violation of the U.N. Charter; they both want to have a say in the future design of a region that is critical to global security.

All of this was clear more than a year ago, when the then-U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan succeeded in persuading all members of the U.N. Security Council to back his Geneva communiqué calling for a negotiated political transition to a new, broad-based and representative government in Syria. At the time, these efforts were derided by Western hawks and liberals alike as offering succor to the Assad regime whose days were allegedly numbered.

Well, tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, with the destruction of Syria as a viable state nearly complete, and a vital taboo against the use of chemical weapons grossly violated, the Obama administration may recognize that the only thing worse than having to engage in the difficult, often unpalatable give-and-take of great power diplomacy is to have to go it alone, with little prospect of success in achieving anything but the most symbolic and fleeting result.

In the kind of grim irony that only history provides, this week’s G20 summit in St. Petersburg – hosted by none other than Vladimir Putin — offers the world what may the last chance to bring Syria back from brink of a cataclysm. Not only will the permanent members of the Security Council will be present, so will a number of other key regional and global actors. If John Kerry can take a respite from his recent outing as Obama’s Secretary of War, then the the able, shrewd and experienced U.S. Secretary of State should focus all his efforts on crafting a diplomatic strategy to unite the international community.

All of this will be deeply unpalatable to a proud and often self-congratulatory Obama administration: compromising, as in any genuine negotiation, on some of its key priorities; permitting Russia and China to have a serious stake in the region’s future; agreeing to a transition that allows members of the current regime to have a role, without which they will have no incentive to abandon Assad; broadening the negotiating table to ensure that all relevant outside actors, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, have a stake in a new governance structure for Syria. But if the foreign policy legacy of the Obama administration is to be about more than “bearing witness” and “sending messages” amidst the Middle East’s historical upheavals, the hard work of diplomacy must now be done in order to win the vote — and the war.

Overview

Trusted counsel in a turbulent world

The Firm

Nader Mousavizadeh and David Claydon founded Macro Advisory Partners in 2013 to provide a global client base with a competitive advantage in a complex world. Driven by a belief in the value of independent, long-term strategic counsel, MAP's co-founders created a firm that delivers actionable macro strategies to decision-makers in business, finance and government.

A volatile and fragmenting global landscape requires an integrated understanding of the political and economic drivers of change. Drawing on MAP's unique network, the firm’s partners create tailored and innovative macro solutions mapped to the specific exposures, risks and opportunities facing the firm’s clients.

MAP's London and New York-based team of partners, directors and associates is supported by a Global Advisory Board and a group of Senior Advisors drawn from leadership positions in the worlds of business, finance, politics, diplomacy and technology.

Watch our firm video to find out more.

Partners
Global Advisory Board
  • Louise Arbour

    Jurist in Residence, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
    Louise Arbour is a jurist in residence at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and former UN Special Representative for International Migration.
  • William Burns

    President, Carnegie Endowment
    Ambassador Burns is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and was the 17th United States Deputy Secretary of State.
  • Mala Gaonkar

    Co-portfolio Manager, Lone Pine Capital
    Mala Gaonkar is Co-portfolio Manager at Lone Pine Capital, and a former consultant at the World Bank.
  • Vikram Mehta

    Executive Chairman, Brookings India
    Vikram Mehta is a leading Indian businessman who was Chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India.
  • David Miliband

    President, IRC
    David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, following a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom.
  • Vali Nasr

    Dean, SAIS
    Dr Vali Nasr is Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.
  • Jonathan Powell

    Director, Inter Mediate
    Jonathan is Director of Inter Mediate.
  • Carl-Henric Svanberg

    Chairman, AB Volvo
    Carl-Henric Svanberg is Chairman of AB Volvo.
Senior Advisory Team

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Managing DirectorFormer Senior Managing Director & Head of Research, Medley Global Advisors
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, US Treasury
MAP Global AdvisorDirector, Inter Mediate
MAP Global AdvisorPresident, Carnegie Endowment

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorDirector, Counterpoint
MAP Senior AdvisorAssociate Professor in Comparative Politics, LSE
MAP Global AdvisorExecutive Chairman, Brookings India
MAP Global AdvisorDean, SAIS

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
MAP Senior AdvisorMD, Initiative for US-China Dialogue, Georgetown University
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Director for Korea and Japan, US National Security Council
MAP Managing DirectorFormer Senior Managing Director & Head of Research, Medley Global Advisors

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, European Politics and Economy, Univ. of Athens
MAP Senior AdvisorNelson & David Rockefeller Sr Fellow, Lat Am, CFR
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer advisor to Turkish Presidents Gul and Erdogan
MAP Director Digital Technology & Macro StrategyFormer Chief of Staff of European Commission VP for the Digital Agenda

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Deputy Legal-Counsel of the United Nations
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer UK Ambassador and Visiting NYU Professor
MAP Global AdvisorJurist in Residence, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Managing DirectorFormer Senior Managing Director & Head of Research, Medley Global Advisors
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, US Treasury
MAP Global AdvisorDirector, Inter Mediate
MAP Global AdvisorPresident, Carnegie Endowment

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorDirector, Counterpoint
MAP Senior AdvisorAssociate Professor in Comparative Politics, LSE
MAP Global AdvisorExecutive Chairman, Brookings India
MAP Global AdvisorDean, SAIS

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
MAP Senior AdvisorMD, Initiative for US-China Dialogue, Georgetown University
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Director for Korea and Japan, US National Security Council
MAP Managing DirectorFormer Senior Managing Director & Head of Research, Medley Global Advisors

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorChairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia
MAP Senior AdvisorDirector, Counterpoint
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer National Security Advisor and Editor-in-Chief, Politiken, Denmark
MAP Global AdvisorPresident, IRC

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, European Politics and Economy, Univ. of Athens
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer advisor to Turkish Presidents Gul and Erdogan
MAP Senior AdvisorNelson & David Rockefeller Sr Fellow, Lat Am, CFR
MAP Director Digital Technology & Macro StrategyFormer Chief of Staff of European Commission VP for the Digital Agenda

We draw on a unique advisory board and team of senior advisors with backgrounds in government, finance, technology, law and industry, which includes:

MAP Senior AdvisorProfessor, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer Deputy Legal-Counsel of the United Nations
MAP Senior AdvisorFormer UK Ambassador and Visiting NYU Professor
MAP Global AdvisorJurist in Residence, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Concept

Macro Advisory Partners provides corporate, investor and sovereign clients with the strategic insights to navigate the intersection of global markets, geopolitics and policy.

In a world defined by volatility and uncertainty — and an abundance of information, yet scarcity of insight — we identify the strategic implications for decision-makers tasked with maximising opportunity and minimising risk. The Archipelago World is characterised by fragmenting markets, populist politics, policy unpredictability, revolutionary technology, and weaponised arenas of finance, regulation and cyber.  The implications of this environment are dramatic and lasting. To help our clients anticipate and navigate these shifts in the macro landscape, we bring together deep on-the-ground analysis with long-term strategic judgement tailored to our clients' specific interests, exposures and concerns.

For today's global investor and business leader, macro is just as disruptive a factor as technology. Our advice — delivered by the firm's partners through trusted, personal, long-term and dynamic client engagements — is drawn from the policy expertise and connectivity of our global network, supported by advanced data analytics. The firm's Global Advisory Board and a team of Senior Advisors with backgrounds in diplomacy, intelligence, investment strategy, negotiation, academia and industry, support our partners with the judgements that enable us to provide clients with relevant, actionable and investable macro solutions.

Principles

A culture of partnership defines our firm — among the individuals we have attracted to our endeavour, and with the clients whose long-term interests we view as our own. Our team brings to our work a diverse range of global business, finance and government experiences that enable us not only to interpret a changing macro environment for our clients, but also to design specific solutions that enhance their performance and prospects.

The principles of independence, integrity and intelligence define our culture. Our clients include the world's leading technology, consumer, energy and financial services institutions. Our commitment to them — and to our people — is to deliver on our founding aim of building the world's leading macro advisory firm.

Portfolio

  • Engagement

    Middle East Market Expansion

    Facing a fragmenting market and changing regulation, a global financial services company uses MAP's advice to enhance its performance and footprint in the Middle East.
  • Engagement

    Managing a Complex Portfolio in a Volatile World

    MAP provides ongoing and ad-hoc advisory services to a significant investor client, which manages a complex portfolio of equity, credit, interest rate, commodity and foreign exchange exposures.
  • Engagement

    China Market Strategy

    A global consumer goods company achieves success in China with support from MAP's distinctive macro insights.
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