Posted by: bkivey | 10 September 2013

History as Farce

Anyone who’s been out of touch the last couple of weeks may be forgiven for wondering how the hell Syria has come to the forefront of the American political scene. The official explanation is that chemical weapons were used by government forces on the rebels as that benighted country’s two-year-old civil war drags on. Reprehensible as that action is, it’s certainly not a historical trigger for US use of force. There have been other government-sponsored chemical weapons employments in places like Iraq and Iran that didn’t invite a US response. What’s the difference now?

Earlier this year a number of pundits predicted that as his political capital was eroded in a series of scandals, the president would look to start a war. This is no great stretch, as the first thing someone in trouble tries to do is distract their attackers, and when you control the world’s most powerful military, firing off a few bombs and missiles is relatively cheap and makes for great visuals. Bill Clinton had Somalia in 1993 as the Lewinsky scandal got legs.

The other part of the equation is that President Obama specifically stated in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a ‘red line’.  This affirmed in a White House press briefing earlier this year and his own Secretary of State. I suppose the Administration’s thinking was that Syrian dictator Assad wouldn’t use chemical weapons.

Except he totally did. He called Obama’s bluff.

What has unfolded since has been one of the more bizarre, baffling, and WTF series of events in recent American history.

Obama’s first reaction was that he was going to lob some cruise missiles and possibly air strikes into Syria in a limited action. Although the president is Constitutionally constrained from unilaterally  using armed force unless the US and/or it’s forces and interests are in imminent danger, such quibbling details have never been a consideration for this president.

When it became clear that such an action would be unpopular, the President threw a temper tantrum in Stockholm.  He denied saying things he’d said, setting conditions that he’d set, and in general blaming everyone else for his inability to lead. One journalist hilariously described the speech as “a unilateral attempt to expand responsibility’. This from an Obama apologist.  History is replete with leaders making unilateral attempts to expand responsibility.

I’m sure the irony of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner banging the drums of war in the awarding city wasn’t lost on the Nobel Prize committee. They didn’t ask for the medal back, though.

Obama then reversed course and decided, that yeah, Congressional approval might be a good thing, although the evidence suggests that he did so for the most cynical of reasons. If Congress voted ‘no’ he could blame them for ‘killing children’ (Democrats love them some dead children), and if they voted ‘yes’, he would have political cover. If the operation were successful (although ‘success’ hasn’t been defined). Obama could take credit. If it failed, he could say that he was only following the directive of Congress.

And just how ‘limited’ was this action supposed to be? One White House official was quoted as saying an action would be ‘just muscular enough not to be mocked’. Secretary of State John Kerry elaborated by saying:

“We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing–unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”

What?! It’s axiomatic that when making threats, one doesn’t minimize the potential consequences. This is akin to a mobster walking into a business and saying “Nice business you got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it. You don’t start paying protection, one of my boys might come by and throw gum wrapper on the floor.” If I was a US antagonist, I’d be seeking medical treatment for laughter-induced hypoxia. If I were a US ally, I’d be buying China and Russia lunch.

Events took an even more bizarre twist when John Kerry made the remark that if Syria were to turn over its chemical weapons, it might avoid US military action. Much to the surprise of this insular Administration, Russian and Syria said “OK’. Kerry tried to downplay his remark as a ‘joke’, seemingly unaware that anything a senior American official said might be taken seriously. To Kerry’s credit, he’s gone a ways toward ensuring that won’t be the case in the future.

This whole fiasco is a case study in arrogant incompetence. A leader who only leads from behind, who cannot build consensus and coalitions, and who doesn’t take responsibility for anything. Unless competent people actually accomplish something, then he’s quick to step to the front of the parade. We have officials who are fools and buffoons, who live in worlds unconnected to reality, and are constantly surprised when events don’t go as the expect. Then there’s the mainstream media, this Administration’s great enabler. In the banana republic that is Obama’s America, even news organizations that want to ask tough questions don’t for fear of losing access.

It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone in this Administration that friend and foe alike watch what goes on here. Under Bush, parts of the world may not have liked us, but they weren’t going to mess with us, either. Libya’s Gaddafi quietly gave up his military ambitions after watching the US commit to some serious ass-kicking in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama promised to ‘restore America’s standing in the world’. He didn’t mention that would be our standing from 1850. Blessed with the SADIM touch, he’s managed to make the US less respected than ever. As a citizen, I’m deeply ashamed to even remotely be associated with this confederacy of dunces.

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