Obama’s Problem in Syria

The Obama administration is now confident that the Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons last week against civilians outside of Damascus.   The chemical attack left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.  This is not the first time the administration has suspected the regime of using chemical agents.  Several months ago the administration announced that it had “high confidence” that Syria’s regime was utilizing chemical weapons, including the nerve agent Sarin, against the rebel forces.

Red Line

In August of 2012 President Obama demonstrated his skills in diplomacy by offering a “red line” if the Assad regime utilized chemical weapons.  Now, one-year and several chemical attacks later, Obama is once again flopping on the world stage.  The problem for Obama is that he always appears weak and indecisive, while trying to appear like a statesman.  The problem for America is that he is our elected leader and we appear weak by association.

Obama is clearly in a tough spot on this one.  He drew the line in the sand and now he must follow through or risk eating another slice of humble pie.  Recently, Putin gave Obama a jab by granting NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, temporary asylum.  Obama has expressed his desire to intervene in Syria and his administration has said it will not act unilaterally.  However, his efforts to gain support from our allies, France and England, have been stalled.  The United Nations Security Council is not playing ball either.

Obama’s handling of this matter is analogous to a child (we will call him Brock) who tells everyone he is going to punch the school bully if the bully picks on his sister one more time.  When that day comes, Brock is now confronted with either punching the bully or facing the shame of inaction.  Brock then attempts to gain support from the other kids on the playground.  When the other kids refuse to join in, Brock looks rather silly and realizes he should have kept his mouth shut in the first place.  True statesmen do not talk about action; they act when necessary.  This is why former UN Ambassador John Bolton has stated that there is “amazing confusion” on the part of the president and that the red line was a mistake. Ambassador Bolton believes that trying to make sense of Obama’s foreign policy is like trying to nail Jello to the wall.

Some Media Help

In an effort to give Obama an out some of the media outlets are coming to the aid of Obama by trying to show that the president’s exact words do not box him into a corner.  According to ABC News, the president’s exact words were:

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

They argue that the president never defined “a whole bunch of chemical weapons” and never stated what would happen if the red line was crossed.  This is just more Orwellian double-speak.  I think we can all agree that when hundreds of people are killed and thousands are injured from the use of chemical weapons, it constitutes “a whole bunch” of chemical weapons.  Think of it as a page out of Clinton’s playbook.  It depends on what alone, sex, and is means.  True statesmen say what they mean and mean what they say.  They do not hide behind language, meanings, and nuances.  If the statesmen is unsure, he is smart enough to keep is mouth shut.

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