Strike Syria Yea or Nay?
Before I get to the politics of this story, a word about the strategic question:
There is a strong case to be made that failure for the U.S. to act in Syria would by default hand a victory to Syria's Assad and his Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies who would also be emboldened while U.S. credibility suffers. But failure to act effectively, would result in the same negative consequences. The problem is that few people think Obama capable and competent to lead an effective response that enhances our strategic national interests. Obama talks about a "shot across the bow" type of strike that would do nothing to alter the strategic equation in favor of U.S. interests.
Even if we were to engage in a more robust military campaign, there is grave concern that Obama would follow up that action with the requisite attention necessary to preserve any short term gains.
Just look at Egypt and Libya as two examples. In both cases Obama tossed the establishment order under the bus but failed to provide the necessary leadership to assure it's replacement was in line with U.S. interests.
Considering the above, should we strike or not? I fully agree we can have little faith in Obama's ability to lead or to understand the strategic issues. But in this case, I see consequences that are equally bad if we do nothing. My own thought is that we err on the side of action and just hope for the best. For me to be more assured would mean leadership from Obama and that takes us to the political dimension....
Obama: No Red Line from Me, Congress's Credibility, not mine, on the line
You won't find a better example of Obama's inability to lead and why he foments distrust than the statement he made in Stockholm, Sweden on Wednesday.
Here's the full exchange:
STEVE HOLLAND, REUTERS: Have you made up your mind whether to take action against Syria whether or not you have a congressional resolution approved? Is a strike needed in order to preserve your credibility for when you set these sort of red lines? And were you able to enlist the support of the prime minister here for support in Syria?While it's technically true that the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons is a norm of the international community, it was Obama who invoked this "red line" and did so in a very direct, even personal way a year ago. Perhaps had he acted then on the knowledge that the Syrians were using chemical weapons we might have avoided the much larger slaughter which followed.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let me unpack the question. First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation titled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous thing that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for. And so, when I said, in a press conference, that my calculus about what's happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn't something I just kind of made up. I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There was a reason for it. That's point number one. Point number two, my credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line. And America and Congress' credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.
But then to go and repeatedly blame Congress for this mess is beyond absurd. Someone should remind Obama that HE is the Commander in Chief, not Congress. His remarks seem more tuned to political arguments than a discussion of the merits of strategic questions. It used to be that politics stopped at the water's edge. But with so many other rules for civil discourse that too only applies to Republicans. Obama is free to engage in political activity overseas and you won't hear a word of complaint coming from the same media that would jump all over any Republican doing the same.
If Obama managed the UN and our British allies with the same heavy handed tactics he is now directing at Congress, it's no wonder the world has bailed out on supporting his leadership!
The Political Dimension
Obama's statement in Stockholm confirms what Kimberly Strassel suggested earlier in the Wall Street Journal. She surmises that the political dimension to this crisis is the prime driver for Obama, not national security. I agree.
Obama's attempt to put this on Congress is part of a campaign orchestrated by newly formed team of current and former Obama campaign aides. The photo op on Labor Day with Senators John McCain (A-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the first visible sign of his strategy:
Both McCain and Graham are essential if Obama wants to persuade Republicans to support a congressional resolution authorizing action against Syria. But there's guarantee that any action Obama takes will meet the strategic requirements understood by the two Senators. Also, wouldn't it have been something if Senator Graham had turned to Susan Rice, Sitting near McCain, and asked who was it that told you to blame a You Tube video for the Benghazi attack a year ago? Also, Graham could have asked Obama what he was doing the night of the attack. Oh well, another opportunity lost to get to the truth!
While we are doing photos, I can't help but include the following...
Remember how the Dems howled about Donald Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1983 in the run-up to the Iraq War? The suggestion is that Rumsfeld and the Republicans were hypocrites, or worse, for supporting Saddam 20 years earlier in his war against Iraq then later trying to destroy him.
So, turnabout is fair play. Just four years ago then Senator Kerry dined with Syria's Assad in Damascus. Kerry was a frequent visitor to Syria and called Assad a "reformer." Four years later he's a monster?
Senator and Mrs. John Kerry dine with President Assad and wife in Syria in 2009.
And who can forget Nancy Pelosi. As House Speaker, she made a very public trip to Damascus in 2007 which undermined Bush Administration efforts to contain Syria. Assad supporters hailed Pelosi as a "friend to Syria" and a "hero."
Oh for the good old days when the adults were in charge!
Bush managed to bring Congress, UN, and much of the world with us in
great moments. He did so by exercising leadership and accepting responsibility!