The rebels, many of whom are militantly Islamist, are now inclusive, Kerry claimed. "At our insistence ... they reached out and expanded significantly their base within Syria. They elected new leadership. They brought in a much broader base of Syrian representation, including women, including minorities, Christians, others."
After Kerry spoke, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told Fox News the administration is working with the "moderate opposition" and aims to "make sure that not only our assistance but the assistance of other countries goes to them and stays away from the radical extreme opposition."
In the next moment, Blinken conceded, "It's not a perfect science."
No, it's not. Are violent jihadists one-quarter of the rebel forces, or one-half, or something else? No one seems to know.
The problem intensified with the circulation of a video showing Syrian rebels summarily executing captured government soldiers. There are other such videos around -- the incident was in no way the first example of rebel viciousness -- but the pictures seemed to highlight the dilemma as the intervention debate rages on Capitol Hill. The Syrian civil war is a very ugly thing for the U.S. to be involved in, no matter how much vetting goes on first.