Quote of the Day   2 comments


But, first, here’s my take: Last March, President Barack Obama spoke off-the-cuff about how Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be a “game-changer.” It has turned out to be, except not quite in the sense that he meant.

It has been an event that has confused and confounded the Obama administration. Whatever your views on the larger issues, it’s hard not to conclude that the administration’s handling of Syria over the last year has been a case study in how not to conduct foreign policy.

The president started out with an understanding that the Syrian conflict is a messy sectarian struggle that cannot be influenced easily by American military intervention. He was disciplined in resisting calls to jump into a cauldron.

But from the start, he confused and undermined this policy with loose rhetoric, perhaps egged on by some of his advisors and critics to “do something.” So, he announced just over two years ago that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had to go.

Now, a pundit can engage in grandiose rhetoric. The president of the United States should make declarations like that only if he has some strategy to actually achieve it. He did not.

In truth, Obama and many others miscalculated. They believed that Assad’s regime was near the end, misreading both its strength and brutality, but also the level of support it has from several segments of Syrian society.

Then, just about a year ago, came the off-the-cuff remarks about a red line on chemical weapons, insufficiently thought through but now publicly stated and definitive.

Since then, American foreign policy in Syria has largely been concerned about ensuring that Obama’s threat does not seem empty. After all, what American national interest is being followed?

The administration says it is upholding international law. Except, as Fred Kaplan points out in Slate, the institutions that embody international law and consensus, the United Nations and other international organizations, do not support this action.

The United States plus France and Turkey cannot be considered the embodiment of international law and global public opinion.

The nature of the strike, we are told, will be short and symbolic, a shot across the bow, in the midst of a civil war in which both sides are in a high-stakes struggle for survival.

Does anyone think that this will make any difference? And then, the strangest twist, an unplanned, last minute appeal to Congress, paving the way for further delay, weakening momentum, erasing what little surprise existed, and setting the stage for a potential defeat at home.

I don’t think that this strike, should it eventually take place, will be as damaging as its critics fear. The Assad regime will likely hunker down, take it, and move on.

It will make little difference one way or the other. But the manner in which the Obama administration has first created and then mismanaged this crisis will, alas, cast a long shadow on America’s role in the world.



Posted September 2, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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2 responses to “Quote of the Day

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  1. I really hope decisive action will be taken. Promises are always made by world leaders, but when push comes to shove, they always find excuse after excuse to delay action.


  2. It’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is. It would be great to stop the tremendous suffering, if we can. I don’t think we should take half measures. We should either attack in a way that cripples Assad and his government, or not at all. I don’t know what the best answer is, but I like thoughtful consideration of it. Thanks for weighing in with your voice!

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