Streetwise Professor

August 31, 2013

Another Fine Mess Gets Even Finer

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 4:35 pm

So Obama, in an oddly delayed statement, has stated to the surprise of many that he will seek Congressional approval for military action in Syria.  This is the right thing to do, Constitutionally, but I don’t think that Obama was struck by pangs of Constitutional conscience.  His was a pragmatic decision.  And likely an overdetermined one.  There is no popular support for intervention.  There is, no doubt, considerable unease in Congress, especially in the Democratic caucus, and especially in the progressive portion of that caucus that is Obama’s political home.  He knows that by going in without Congressional approval, he owns 100 percent of the outcome-which is unlikely to be a good one, or which at least has a high probability of being an ineffectual or ugly one.

And there’s another potential factor.  There is no way Obama wants to go to the G20 in Russia with TLAMs flying, or in the immediate aftermath of an attack.  Hell, for him time with Putin is like a root canal without anesthesia even when he isn’t attacking one of Russia’s allies.  One can only imagine how gruesome it would be when he is.  Congress is in recess, and will not return until after Obama has returned to the US.

One last issue: Obama’s heart is obviously not in an attack.  Perhaps he believes, Micawber-like, that if he delays for a couple of weeks, something may turn up and relieve him of the burden of ordering an attack.

In other words, Obama has several reasons to stall for time.  Seeking Congressional approval permits him to do just that.

But in choosing this course, Obama has traded one risk for others.  In particular, he risks being humiliated in Congress, as Cameron was humiliated in parliament.  There are reports circulating, however, that Obama plans to proceed with a strike even if Congress does not approve.  This risks a Constitutional crisis.

There’s also the issue of how this will be perceived in Damascus, Tehran, Moscow, and elsewhere.  No doubt the charmers in the echelons of power in those places are chortling, if not guffawing.  They will conclude that Obama cannot even muster the fortitude to order a feckless strike-one that he again touted as feckless (but as a feature, not a bug).  They are unlikely to place much stock in Constitutional niceties anyways, but the fact that Obama made this announcement after days of stories reporting that he would “consult” with Congress but not seek its approval will no doubt be interpreted as a loss of nerve.

Which could unleash another perverse dynamic.  Part of Obama’s motivation for an attack is to redeem his credibility, in the aftermath of his “red line” ad lib (I will pass over the “Assad must go” statement in silence).  Obama may feel compelled to act more aggressively if this latest pause is widely perceived as an indication of his weakness and lack of will.

Lost in all this is a coherent discussion of how an attack would serve American interests, or save the lives of innocent Syrians.  Yet again, Obama’s statement made it plain that he views a strike as a means of expressing disapproval of the use of chemical weapons. He was-again-at such pains to convey that any attack-if it ever happens-will be sharply limited.  Therefore, there has been no discussion of how this would deter Assad (or any other dictator) from using chemical weapons, or advance American interests, or accelerate the end of the Syrian civil war.

In other words, the fine mess has gotten even finer.

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  1. Obama has a real talent for driving things to the absurd. Jeez-Assad’s ten year old son calling Obama out on Facebook. They took the measure of the man and only small units were required.

    Comment by pahoben — August 31, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

  2. shame, shcck, awe… I am speechless. Is Obama unprecedented in his fumbling of foreign policy? It would be an absurd comedy on stage.

    Comment by scott — September 2, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

  3. and now an UNannounced missile test over the Med- reported by Russia? Are we ruled by complete retards?

    Comment by scott — September 3, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  4. The real loss for the US is that the entire world now knows Obama doesn’t know what he wants to do and is likely incapable of knowing. All of his life he has never had to make the hard decisions. Even in his presidential campaign, all he did was look retrospectively at past decisions and say that the ones which turned out to be bad he was against, and those that seemed to turn out well he was in favor. No indication how he would make decisions going forward. Every decision is based on ass covering and keeping up appearances.

    Conservative media has been pointing this out for six years now, but only recently has this begun to be repeated in the mainstream media. The lead seems to be coming from Europe which can’t believe how bad Obama is. The American media is only reluctantly accepting this conclusion, but is still doing what it can to protect Obama’s reputation. I wonder how much long they will continue to do so.

    Comment by Chris — September 3, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  5. I may seem too alarmist to most fellow Americans, but I am not as blindly in love with Al Qaeda as Obama and the Congress. We have been through this once before. In the 1980s the American government created, trained and funded Bin Laden as our anti-Russian friend and ally. But he betrayed our trust on 9/11/2001.

    With Bin Laden gone, our American leaders and media think that Al Qaeda is our best friend again and can be again trusted, and want to hand Syria over to Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups by military means.

    But what if Al Qaeda once again betrays our friendship? Maybe instead of bombing Assad, we should bomb Al Qaeda and other anti-Assad extremists? Just asking….

    Another thing. We should prepare for the time when Al Qaeda and other “Syrian rebels” take over Syria, and order millions of coffins for the Christians and Shiites that will be slaughtered. There exists perception that the coffins won’t be needed because the rebels eat their victims’ flesh:
    Syrian ‘cannibal’ rebel explains his actions

    The reality is that flesh eating is only a small part of rebel rituals, and coffins WILL be needed on the same or even larger scale as during the humanitarian catastrophe during the US/UK occupation Iraq.
    Syria’s Christians Risk Eradication
    A post-Assad Islamist regime threatens to re-enact the Armenian genocide.
    Most puzzling of all, though, is why the United States seems so determined to eradicate Christianity in one of its oldest heartlands, at such an agonizingly sensitive historical moment.

    Comment by Vlad — September 4, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

  6. @Vlad. The Syrian state, which supports Hezbollah, and which is an ally of and cat’s paw for, Iran is more dangerous than Al Qaeda. We are not talking about training AQ. I do think we’ve learned our lesson on that, and although telling who’s who in the ME is always a challenge, AQ has always proved containable given the will and the resources-especially since the AQ types have a tendency to alienate the locals. The heart-eating is despicable, but the heart-eaters can be beaten.

    Toppling Assad would be a blow against Iran, and would undermine Hezbollah which is a serious threat to regional peace, and far more organized and cohesive than AQ. Sometimes you have to pick your poison, and IMO Hezbollah and Iran are more poisonous than the AQ types in Syria. In part because they are more insidious and organized.

    That said, the issue of Christians in Syria and elsewhere in the ME is a serious one, and one which the US government has shamefully ignored, with Egypt being the most egregious example.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 4, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

  7. Professor,

    Wouldn’t it be a much wiser policy for the US to let all these abominable characters – Hezbollah, Assad, Iran, AQ, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc – fight each other in Syria for many decades to come? And if one side starts losing and is at risk of a humanitarian disaster, the US then should help it – whichever side – to restore the balance of power in order to fight for another decade. It would be both humanitarian AND great for US and the entire World.

    Comment by Vlad — September 4, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

  8. The only regret would be the plight of Syrian Christians….

    Comment by Vlad — September 4, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

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