Damned If You Do
Barack Obama finally realized (or was convinced by other aides and confidants) that he was in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. In this case he acted correctly—postponing a consideration of any attack on Syria until he has "consulted with Congress." It is highly unlikely that the Congress will approve Obama's adventure, so for now at least, his threatened attack on Syria is a no go. And that's a good thing.
The President painted himself into a corner with loose talk about red lines, and as a consequence, felt forced not to look weak in the eyes of our adversaries. But a missile attack that did not topple the Assad regime or pummel it mercilessly would have looked weak and ineffective in any event. Worse, if his attack did topple Assad, the victors would have been mad-dog Islamists (one leader recently appeared on a YouTube video—unvetted, but still disgusting—eating the heart of a dead Syrian soldier) Another victor would have been al Qaida. What a mess, and another testament to the fecklessness of the President's foreign policy efforts in the Middle East over the past five years.
Barack Obama lost the majority of his liberal base on the Syria attack, not to mention a significant majority of all Americans. He was roundly and justifiably criticized from the Left and the Right, from foreign allies and adversaries alike. It's hard to build that kind of a coalition, but Obama managed to do it.
One would hope that the amateurs in the administration and the President himself would learn from this disaster. But I doubt that they will. The hubris and concomitant incompetence of this presidency continues to astound.
One of the President's home town newspapers, The Chicago Tribune, summaries this foreign policy debacle:
So ended the most puzzling, and potentially disastrous, week of the Obama presidency.This president is quick to blame others for damage related to his poor policy decisions. The damage related to this decision is clearly self-inflicted.
He failed to muster world support for a military response on Syria. He failed to convince the American public of the value in such action. He sent Secretary of State John Kerry out twice to issue broad declarations that the U.S. was prepared to act forcefully, but he gave away military advantage by assuring the world — and Bashar Assad — that the U.S. response would be quite limited. Moreover, Assad gained the opportunity to protect his troops and materiel by filtering them into the civilian population.