September 5, 2013
There isn't much enthusiasm for Obama's plan for Syria. A lot of the Senate would like Obama to go bigger. A lot of the House would like Obama to just go.
Even the experts have trouble explaining how and why the attacks will do any good. The debate has congealed down to credibility.
The only real argument in favor of hitting Syria is that Obama laid down a red line and Congress is obligated to protect his credibility when making poorly thought out threats for the sake of national security.
But it's not Congress' job to protect Obama's credibility for the sake of the nation. It was Obama's job to protect the nation's credibility by not setting a red line until he had Congressional approval.
Bush was able to go to Congress and get an authorization to use force against Iraq contingent on the failure of diplomacy and Saddam continuing to flout United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Obama could have done the same thing on Syria. He could have done it at any point in time after his original red line remark a year ago. Bush got his authorization half a year before the war. Obama had twice as much time to get his.
But he didn't bother with authorization in Libya. His style of governance is unilateral and he had no intention for asking for one in Syria. Instead Obama chose to wait until the last minute when an incident occurred that would force his hand, only to then backtrack by taking it to Congress, a move that his people repeatedly rejected until it became politically convenient.
And now Congress is supposed to somehow salvage his credibility from this mess.
While the media lectures Congress on its obligation to pretend that the emperor is wearing pants for the sake of the empire, they're forgetting that there were never any pants to begin with.
We're not dealing with a case of suspected emperor nudity to be covered up. The world has already seen video of the emperor flashing everyone on the National Mall since his first inauguration.
The media can spin Obama's failed strawmen into gold, but their spinning reels end at the border. Americans may be the captive audience of his media, but the enemies he needs to impress aren't.
Obama didn't impress our enemies with his inability to make up his mind about Afghanistan. The firing of multiple generals, the mounting death toll and the clumsy attempts to negotiate with the Taliban took away his credibility.
Bombing Syria at this late date will accomplish nothing except to provide a tepid anticlimactic conclusion to an incompetent policy.
The people he needs to impress, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Khamenei have already taken his measure and are unimpressed. If Congress belatedly approves his strikes on Syria, none of them are going to run off and hide under their desks or confuse the messy delayed outcome with a show of real strength.
Credibility isn't just about making and keeping threats. It's about knowing which threats to make and why to make them.
Our enemies don't doubt that we can bomb. They doubt that we know whom to bomb and why.
No one doubts that America has lots of cruise missiles. After Obama's sequester, we don't have as many as we used to, but our capabilities are not really in dispute. What is in dispute is whether we are capable of conducting a credible foreign policy. It's hard to characterize a belated bombing of Syria on behalf of a Free Syrian Army that everyone but us knows is our enemy as a credible policy.
America doesn't lack cruise missile credibility. We've used them in the past and everyone knows we'll use them again. There is even the distinct possibility that we might invade a country. But that is only intimidating to an Assad. It doesn't intimidate the bigger players in the game who know that we will never bomb them or invade them.
Credibility is about more than bombs. It's about being able to effectively play the game of nations. In the bigger picture, it's about the perception that your opponent knows what he's doing. Announcing that you have to bomb another country to demonstrate your credibility is about the best possible way of proving that you have no idea what you're doing. It's begging for your bluff to be believed.
No act of Congress can buy Obama any kind of credibility and no amount of bombs will put the mom jeans back on the naked emperor. It's too late for that.
The recurring argument that Iran is watching Syria and that its nuclear program hangs in the balance is hot air.
Iran knows that Obama isn't trying to bomb Syria because he really believes that WMD use is a red line. Its leaders know that the proposed attacks, like the arms being supplied to the rebels, are part of Obama's support for the Sunni opposition at the behest of the Sunni oil states who have a death grip on Washington.
The message from the attacks won't be that America takes human rights atrocities seriously. Sudan, Rwanda and countless other genocides make a mockery of that. The message will be that the Saudis can still call in the United States Air Force and Navy to clear the way for their regional objectives.
Losing Syria will weaken Iran, but that will only accelerate its nuclear program as it rushes to find an even bigger club to use to hold on to Lebanon and Iraq.
Obama will not bomb Iran. The Democrats did everything possible to stop Bush from doing it. They are not about to do it themselves. Any belief otherwise is wishful thinking. Israel's leaders have unfortunately allowed themselves to believe that the link is there. And Netanyahu has done some foolish and destructive things out of that mistaken belief.
Killing the myth that Syria is a gateway to Iran is good for Israel. It means that Israel may finally realize that it's alone and that Obama will not step in and do the right thing at the last minute once every ounce of diplomacy has been squeezed out and the sanctions have been tightened as much as they will go. And then it may finally look after its own interests.
Nor for that matter is Obama truly serious about dealing with Syria's WMD stockpiles, some of which were originally Saddam's missing weapons. If Obama were stepping in to eliminate Syria's stockpiles and had a convincing plan for doing it, that would be a legitimate national security issue and there would be far less debate over it.
But despite the wording of the resolution, that's not really on the table. Obama will either make some sort of empty gesture with cruise missiles; a bad habit that his people picked up from their previous employment with Bill Clinton who used cruise missiles to punctuate bad polls, or will pound away at Syrian military targets to aid the Islamist rebels.
Either way, the confidence trick will be in the discredited policies of soft power and nation building through Islamist democracy. And those policies have even less credibility than Obama does.
And it's the credibility of policies that was the real issue all along.
Obama did not have a credible policy on Syria, just like he didn't have one on Libya or Egypt. This is not an administration that is capable of foreseeing the unexpected consequences of its actions abroad. Instead it operates with the arrogant dogmatism of the left by assuming that ideological cred will translate into results. It hasn't and doesn't.
Now Obama would like to bomb Syria, while his advisers admit that there is no real plan for Syria.
Obama bombed Libya and now the Muslim Brotherhood has forced the elected government out of power while militias battle for control over its major cities. The media won't report that, just as it skims across the surface of Benghazigate, because it might give people the idea that bombing a place without having a plan for the aftermath is a bad idea.
The constant calls for protecting Obama's credibility are really demands that Congress enlist in the media's spin brigade by protecting his image for the sake of national security. But the only people being fooled by this show are other Americans. The spin corps isn't protecting American credibility abroad; it's promoting America credulity at home.
Obama's political palace corps still insists on selling Americans on the myth of his competence. That is the confidence trick they want to pull off with the help of Congress. It is a trick that will not be played on Assad or Putin or the rest of the world, instead it will once again be played on the American people.
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