Syria: Obama’s Own ‘Problem From Hell’
Published on: May 5, 2013
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  • Bill Kristol in the weekly standard has this nailed. ” If the Obama administration is, as Churchill put it in November 1936, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent,” then it should have the decency to keep silent rather than engage in such pitiable and contemptible posturing.”

    • Bill Kristol might have that one point nailed, but in general, given his track record on foreign interventions, less posturing from him would be in
      order as well.

      • “People who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton.
        Better to have consistent values and be occasionally wrong than to have no values whatever except destroying the Republican party.

    • dan

      Alternatively, one might infer that he isn’t dithering but actually wants a result that he can’t state explicitly, e.g., that the aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded organizations should be encouraged. Why else not help our ambassador when under attack in Benghazi? Cover-up of a mistake is one thing, but was it really sheer incompetence?

      • Given that his foreign policy goal, as evidenced by his foreign policy accomplishments, is to advance shariah, I’d say he’s moving along exactly as he’s planned all along, wouldn’t you?

  • Andrew Allison

    You neglected to mention the media firestorm which would be occurring if the President responsible for this shambles were a Republican! Between the mid-East shambles and the Gosnell case, the mendacity of the MSM has been on conspicuous display of late.

    • Jim Luebke

      Journalists need to be on the lookout for stories like this.

      Reputations will be made and careers will be launched with careful, diligent, and courageous coverage of stories the MSM doesn’t want Americans to hear.

  • Richard

    The “greatest mass slaughter since the Rwandan genocide“. Hardly, what about South Sudan, Darfur, the Congo, the war in Iraq following the American intervention…

    The result of the intervention in Libya is still unclear and has already produced unintended consequences, notably Mali. Libya is still a mess and increasingly Islamist.

    The rebel groups in Syria were bound to become Islamist even if the Americans and others had intervened earlier. Even those countries which overthrew regimes without outside intervention i.e. Egypt and Tunisia are increasingly Islamist.

    Republicans have never understood the nature of the Arab and Muslim world and don`t appear to have learned from mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama is right to tread cautiously.

    • “without outside intervention i.e. Egypt and Tunisia are increasingly Islamist.”
      Surely you jest. Or perhaps you mean obvious projection of American power. There was plenty of outside intervention in both those cases.

  • “his credibility at stake”
    I guess the NYT is the last to tumble to the prevaricator-in-chief’s long record of lies, bald-faced lies, half-truths, opportunistic “misstatements,” cover-ups, neglected memories, distorted facts, etc. Disillusionment hurts.

    There should be a prize for the first person to discover a “red line” that would be interpreted to compel this president to any action that looked even remotely military.

  • Anthony

    “Those who want to combine global moral uplift with their diplomacy must do everything the other side is doing, but backwards and in high heels…. This administration has two strategic goals in the Middle East: cooling the fires of global jihad on the one hand while avoiding the horrible choice between accepting Iranian nukes and taking military action against Iran.”

    Essay infers more direct intervention in Syrian Civil War. From “realpolitik” perspective, What are American interests and do we actually have any good options? Assad must go is reminiscent of Gaddafi must go – and how can we not overlook unintended consequences of that intervention (leading from behind). Yet reading essay, I sense that WRM thinks our strategic objective is Iran and Syria presently provides useful buck passing function. With that in mind, we’re going to generate resentments no matter how U.S. foreign policy comes down. The question remains: how do we remove Bashar Assad’s regime without unanticipated eventualities (further regional turmoil, chemical weapons falling into wrong hands, etc.)? The Obama administration most surely realizes that a Syrian policy going forward will be disliked (given toxic history) and perhaps a no win but is there a choice.

    • Jim Luebke

      “The question remains: how do we remove Bashar Assad’s regime without unanticipated eventualities (further regional turmoil, chemical weapons falling into wrong hands, etc.)?”

      By doing lots and lots of anticipating.

      As much flak as Niall Ferguson catches on this site, he was dead on in his appearance on “Morning Joe” and his estimation of this administration vis a vis the Arab Spring. They were completely unprepared.

      This administration was caught with its pants down, after deciding that pants (and defense spending) were incompatible with its return to the Adamite grace of a post-Bush era.

  • Palinurus

    “Acting on good intentions without deep strategic analysis can and frequently does lead to the worst possible consequences…..

    As a general rule, sad to say, the good guys and the smart guys often play on different teams.”

    I’m not sure if the dichotomy of smart v. good captures the problem.

    Kissinger was as smart as they’ve come in regard to cynical manipulation and deep strategic analysis. And yet he could not prevent South East Asia from descent into a humanitarian disaster, and he left the US in perhaps its weakest position relative to the Soviets during the entire Cold War.

    Reagan eschewed three-dimensional chess for the flexible and consistent application of a few principles. And yet he won the Cold War.

    It seems to me that mastering, rather than being mastered by, power is not merely a matter of mind or heart, much less mind versus heart. It is a question of a certain kind of moral character, for want of a better term. One that not only knows when and how to be a saint, and when and how to be a criminal; but, more fundamentally, a rare sort who really can be a saint or criminal as needed, and even at the same time.

    Perhaps it was Bismarck who most aptly characterized the pious impiousness of statesmanship when he said that a statesman’s task was to hear the footsteps of God marching thru history, and to try to catch His coattails as he walked past. Statesmanship is not trying to be God. Nor is it ignoring Him altogether.

  • USNK2

    Syria is not about the body count.
    Syria is a proxy war between Shi’a and Sunni, what with 50,000 Hezbollah Shi’a fighting for Assad.

  • How can anyone expect dear leader to have a coherent, never-mind sucessful, foriegn policy when all their time, enery and focus is absorbed fighting the unholy domestic triumverate, the KKK, the NRA and the GOP?
    The middle east is a mere sideshow compared to the threat posed by them and their puppet-masters, the Tea Party. Nancy Pelosi told me so.

  • circleglider

    The alternative, of accepting a nuclear Iran after so much talk and so many categorical threats, is not to be thought of. Whatever the case in the abstract for seeking an accommodation with a nuclear Iran, President Obama has so committed himself and the United States to prevent an Iranian bomb that a flipflop on this issue would carry a catastrophic price.

    Who in their right mind believes that Iran won’t become a nuclear power before Obama leaves office?Really, this ongoing fantasy that some how or some way this Administration will pull a rabbit out of the nuclear Iran hat is beyond childish. So get real and start thinking about it.

  • But… But… But… Obama told us he knows more about foreign policy than his foreign policy advisor, so why would it matter that his advisor has left and he now has nothing but a bunch of poor options? He’s so incredibly smart & wise, some would even say messiah-like, that surely he can handle this without problem or concern. Right?

  • A) obamas policies that many regard as failure, both foreign & domestic, are working for him to achieve HIS goals. The mistake is thinking his goals in any way resemble America’s.

    B) recommend a brush-up on The Gathering Storm, by Winston Churchill.

  • wigwag

    As it happens, Samantha Power isn’t the only Obama Administration official who left in disgust; so did Anne-Marie Slaughter. Vali Nasr, another disgruntled former Obama Administration functionary (he worked for Richard Holbrooke) recently wrote a book excoriating the foreign policy decisions of the Obama White House. Slaughter, now safely ensconced back at Princeton, heaped praise on Nasr’s tell-all book. In her blurb she said,

    “The Dispensable Nation is an important wake-up call by a thoughtful, astute
    and deeply knowledgeable scholar and policymaker. Anyone interested in the
    Middle East, China, or the future of American power should read it immediately
    and think hard about its message.”

  • GABroncoFan

    I figured it out. Golly Gee! Somebody lost Hillary’s reset button. Heads are gonna roll for misplacing the reset button. Jay will let us know at the next press conference who was put on paid administrative leave and sent to Hawaii.

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