The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Obama Chewing Gum as Syria Burns

How did we get where we are on Syria? With Assad surging on the battlefield, with moderates increasingly eclipsed by al-Qaeda radicals within rebel ranks, and with an ill-specified peace plan continually failing to take shape, the New York Times provides a sobering and damning account of the White House’s decision-making process over the past few years. A taste:

Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.

We note that virtually all of the sources for this story have to be members of the President’s close official circle. This is the story that his friends are telling. You really ought to read the whole thing.

We can only hope that this story’s facts are incomplete, because the picture of presidential decision-making and the dire consequences of failures of leadership for American policy portrayed here are appalling. The calm words and the careful reconstruction of events in this NYT story fulfill the worst fears of those who have been criticizing US Syria policy.

Unfortunately this story will also go far toward confirming the convictions of many leaders overseas that the current President of the United States is not up to the job. Our adversaries will be tempted to take bolder steps and our friends will be disheartened.

If the story were about a conservative GOP President, one suspects the Times editors would have used stronger language and done much more to bang readers over the head with the clear inference that the man in the Oval Office engineered what the story calls a worst case scenario in Syria (maximum bloodbath, maximum danger of al-Qaeda gains, maximum chance of ugly Assad survival, maximum chance of Iranian victory, maximum danger for Jordan, maximum damage to prestige, interests and alliances of the United States) through a mix of empty and unrestrained rhetoric, awkward flip flops and half measures.

A first term President still coming up the learning curve could be more easily excused after this kind of performance. At this point, if the Times in fact has the full story here, Americans and those who value a peaceful, stable world system are left to hope that President Obama, frustrated and appalled by the consequences of his choices on Syria policy, will learn from past mistakes.

And we should also hope for some lucky breaks.

Published on October 23, 2013 8:30 am
  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Wow, it’s taken Via Meadia a long time to come to what has been obvious to most of us for a long time. Observations that Obama is an empty suit, that he is nothing without his teleprompter, and that he rejects in favor of Socialism, American Exceptionalism and Divine Providence, have all been overlooked in his supporters worship of his graven image.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I have said it before, I will say it again, calling Obama an empty suit is an insult to the garment industry

      • http://leatherpenguin.com/ TC_LeatherPenguin

        Valerie Jarrett has been running this show right from the jump. She groomed Barry right down to hooking him up with Michelle.

      • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

        An empty dry-cleaning bag, then. Even lighter, nearly valueless and a smothering hazard.

      • Corlyss

        You folks are on FIRE! Keep it up. This is better than late night comedians.

    • Bruce

      VM is naïve where Obama is concerned. I think you have missed it too. I don’t think he is an empty suit. I think he is accomplishing exactly what he wants to accomplish, which is not in America’s interests.

  • rheddles

    Give the guy a break, the gum was probably Nicorette.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    The Times is only willing to write such a story, mild as it is, because Obama is now safely reelected. It will have no consequences as the average low-information voter will never notice it.

    In many ways Bill de Blasio, the mayor presumptive of New York City, is quite similar. Like Obama he is grotesquely unqualified. Like Obama he is a juvenile leftist who doesn’t know leftist nostrums don’t work because he has never run anything in his life. And like Obama he has the support of the Times.

    • Henry Chapman

      Read the comments to the NY Times story. Their militant refusal to draw the most obvious conclusions from the story is pathological.

  • Andrew Berman

    As Valerie Jarrett said to David Remnick about Obama: “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

    • Corlyss

      Great quote! Thanks, Andrew!

  • Rich K

    So “Wishful Thinking” is our only way out Walter? I pray for us.

  • DouginCO

    Obama was only interested in being elected, not in actually doing the job (except for the part where he pushes his lefty policies, designed to “fundamentally transform this nation”)

  • jb willikers

    “hope for some lucky breaks” has fully replaced “hope and change”

  • gitarfan

    “Mr. Obama’s own conflicting impulses…” In other words, the empty suit can’t make a decision. Great, and when he does, it’s usually wrong.

    • jb willikers

      Clint Eastwood is always right.

      • Kavanna

        And wasn’t he right last fall?

  • Henry Chapman

    An unaccomplished Illinois state senator; a creation of affirmative action and Chicago machine politics, is proving to be inept at international diplomacy and strategy.

    Who could have possibly seen that coming?

  • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

    I take an opposite view under the premise that what best serves the US national interest and the properly conceived interests of humanity in Syria is death, death, death, death and yet more death. Nothing against Syria, I say the same of Libya, Egypt, Iran… even Iraq! now that we have bugged out. When Muslim kills Muslim all good people should smile. Luckily they seem to agree enthusiastically. In Syria what is important is that the war should go on. Neither Assad nor his antagonists are anyone we should be playing pattycake with. Yes, there are some bonafide innocent bystanders. Too bad. They had better gun up, circle up and defend themselves which they should have been doing against the Muslim horde for a thousand years. This excerpt displays the utter agreement the administration is in with Your Truly. A river of blood, so long as it is principally Muslim blood, serves our desire to minimize international terror by encouraging INTRAnational terror! Forward.

  • http://inthisdimension.com/ Alexander Scipio

    The fallacy here is the continuing belief by those who should know better that Obama is “incompetent.” Look at his foreign policy in the region. To whom does he give (MB) and withhold (Egyptian people) military aid? He enables the ejection from office of the leaders of those who have kept the (radical sunni) MB in jail: Mubarak, Ghaddafi. He has said not ONE R2P sentence re: Mali, or the mass execution of black-skinned Africans post-Ghaddafi. Look, even, to Honduras, and his execrable demand for anti-Constitutionalism to put a wannabe dictator back into power over the objection of their Supreme Court, People, Army, Rule of Law…. Just about every intelligence agency in the world reported that the gas attacks in Syria were BY the rebels – EVEN THE REBELS. So Obama wanted to degrade Assad’s military – which would have enabled a radical sunni takeover of Syria. Voting “Present” rather than acting in Syria (when he figured out the American people REALLY wouldn’t let him) caused.. what? It caused Saudi Arabia to sever their ties with America: He failed to advance radical sunni islam when he had the chance – so they seem to have dumped him or given him fair warning of same…. Our “allies”? France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Britain.. ALL complaining Obama is spying on them, wiretapping their phones, intercepting their communications… Obama is pure totalitarian – writ very large, larger every day of his second term. The longer people keep excusing this behavior as “incompetence,” the worse it will be for the entire civilized world.

  • John Stephens

    So what you’re telling me is that he can’t think and chew gum at the same time? Who elected this idiot, and why are they still allowed to vote?

  • Corlyss

    “the New York Times provides a sobering and damning account”
    Right. News flash: Dear Leader don’t care about no stinkin’ foreign policy. He cares only about destroying Republicans for the ages (wish he didn’t get so much help from them in the process). He thought he had it made with Obamacare, but that’s blown up in his face. His response to his domestic debacle is “nothing’s wrong; it’s just Republicans lies that there is anything wrong; we’re going to fix it so you can have more money; move along.” Between denial, raving incompetence, and hostility, we don’t have any leadership or sound government.

  • Sam

    Calling Obama a “poor leader” is complimentary because at least that means he has SOME identifiable leadership skills. I would also say it would be generous.

  • lukelea

    “How did we get where we are on Syria?”

    Where do you get this we stuff?

  • circleglider

    Barack Obama: our very own Juan Perón.

  • Kavanna

    (c-: Hey, “empty suit” is mine! :-D :-D

    Good thing I checked up on the party here ….