The Fruits of Obama’s Syria ‘Defeat’

President Obama ... his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

President Obama … his Syria policy may be more than it appeared to be

By Bob Gaydos

In the category of Things Are Never Quite the Way They Appear (especially in international diplomacy), I give you what many “pundits” regard as President Barack Obama’s humiliating defeat in getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to: 1. Admit that his country, contrary to all his previous claims, has a stockpile of outlawed chemical weapons; 2. Agree to promptly provide an inventory of those weapons and 3. Turn the weapons over to a United Nations delegation for the purpose of destroying them all by next year..

This humanitarian feat, which will save countless thousands of lives, was accomplished without firing one missile in righteous anger or placing one set of American GI boots on the ground in the midst of Syria’s brutal civil war. Stay out of Syria is what a solid majority of Americans said they wanted ever since Obama broached the subject of a punishing strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people. It is also what most Republicans in Congress insisted they wanted, contrary to their usual position on military intervention, but consistent with their policy of opposing anything Obama proposes. In this case, to the president, Republican motives didn’t matter; end results did.

This is strictly my opinion. I have no special insight into White House strategy, no one leaking me information on the president’s intentions. Rather, I have my own version of common sense and what I believe is a willingness to judge events by outcomes rather than political bias.

One of the things I believe may not necessarily be as it appears — or as many critics would have it be — is the president’s intent. I do not believe Barack Obama is so dumb as to submit a proposal to Congress that he wants passed if he knows it will be defeated. He is a biracial man living in a racist country who earned degrees from two Ivy League schools — Columbia and Harvard Law, where he was editor of the Law Review. He got elected president. Twice. Having made history, he also has guided the country slowly out of a devastating, largely Republican-created recession and got a health care plan for all Americans through a Congress that can barely agree to meet. This is one smart man (although I think his “red line“ on chemical weapons was a tactical mistake).

So, I have serious doubts that the president ever intended to launch a military strike against Syria, precisely because of the opposition he knew existed among average, war-weary Americans, as well as entrenched anti-Obama, rank-and-file Republicans. He signaled that when, after days of threatening a strike, he agreed to ask Congress to debate and vote on the issue, without even asking members to cut short their vacation to do so. That made the proposal DOA, with even many Democrats opposed to U.S. involvement in Syria because of their constituents’ opposition to it.

Ironically, with the disarmament agreement now being finalized with Syria and Russia, Obama’s continued threat to use military force if Syria fails to comply with the agreement gains much more validity and support among Americans than his original threat. Assad has admitted he’s got the weapons. French, British and American experts, as well as Human Rights Watch, say, based on a United Nations report, that there is no doubt it was Assad’s troops, not rebel forces, that used them. The U.S. Navy’s continued presence in the Mediterranean Sea now takes on even greater import to Assad.

Then, of course, there is the disarmament agreement itself. Americans are strongly of two minds on this:

1. One group, that didn’t necessarily want to attack Syria, nonetheless thinks it is embarrassing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting credit for the plan and that he lectured Americans (in the New York Times no less) about thinking they had to act as morality policeman of the world.

2. Another group feels it is high time America stopped acting as morality policeman of the world, focused on domestic issues instead and enlisted other countries’ help in finding diplomatic, rather than military, solutions to international crises.

I don’t think Obama cares that Putin is getting most of the credit for the chemical weapons agreement. I also don’t think the agreement just sprang into Putin’s head in a dream one night. In fact, Russian officials have acknowledged such a plan was discussed months ago with American officials. Just as Obama is no clueless patsy in this, Putin is no hero. He is no champion of human rights and Americans shouldn’t really pay serious attention to what he has to say about life in the U.S.

In fact, Russia has been the main supplier of arms for the Syrian Army, enabling the civil war to drag on and produce more than 100,000 deaths and a flood of millions fleeing their country. But it is precisely for the link with Syria that Putin had to appear to be the primary force behind the non-military plan.

Of course, this helps Putin gain even more political stature at home. As mentioned previously, Obama has been elected president twice. He cannot run again. His place in history is forged and his future as a statesman guaranteed. But Putin has an Olympics coming to his country next year and has stirred worldwide condemnation for Russia’s anti-gay laws. I wouldn’t be surprised if Russian authorities were tolerant of demonstrations supporting gay rights next winter or if Barack Obama were among the world leaders being most vocal about demanding such behavior. And, while he won’t show it, I don’t think Putin will regard his apparent backing down on gay rights as a “humiliating defeat” on the international stage.

Meanwhile, a major store of chemical weapons will be destroyed, a potential threat to Middle Eastern neighbors of Syria will have been removed, rebel forces in Syria will know they don’t have to fear facing such weapons, not one American soldier will have set foot in Syria, not one Syrian citizen will have been listed as collateral damage in a strike by American “smart” missiles, the United States will have shown cynical countries that it really can use diplomacy, rather than military might, to resolve a crisis, Assad will have been shown to be a murderous liar, Putin will have had some of his Lone Ranger image stripped away in international diplomacy, President Obama, counter to his image in some corners as a reluctant warrior, will have appeared to be willing and eager to use U.S. military power, and Republicans will have emerged as a party opposed to war. By the way, the overwhelming majority of Americans support the non-military resolution of the Syrian crisis.

Humiliating defeat my ass..

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4 Responses to “The Fruits of Obama’s Syria ‘Defeat’”

  1. bennett Says:

    Obama committed a war crime.
    The UN charter is clear: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United hanNations.”

    Did you read the word “THREAT” and have it sink in?

    Spin it, twist it, reconstruct it anyway you like, Obama’s handling of the Syrian matter was not merely “humiliating”,it was antithetical to the rule of law and an impediment to world peace.

    But on a lighter note, here is a link to the Moscow Times that my cousin just sent me :

  2. Lee Steup Says:

    I found it heartening that Obama decided to turn to Congress rather than deem the Syrian situation as simply a “military action,” as was done in all of the recent wars, namely Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. Finally we have a president who understands that only Congress has the power to declare war.

    Also, it was interesting that Kerry was the one to mention publicly the idea of Syria turning over and destroying chemical weapons. Was that really an off-the-cuff remark, spoken and then ostensibly rejected out of hand? Or was Kerry enlisted to make the remark, knowing that Obama and Putin have problems getting along? Could Kerry have engaged in a bit of acting, in order to plant the seed of an idea in Russian and Syrian minds?

    In any event, so far it has created a win-win situation for the U.S. And so far we haven’t killed people who kill people to demonstrate that killing is wrong.

  3. bennett Says:

    Obama never recognized a legal obligation to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. He did so without committing to abide by their vote.
    He gets no points on my tally sheet for asking Congress to approve what would have been a war crime,
    And what exactly did America win in this “win-win situation”? Not only did we fail to garner international support, we alienated ourselves further with talk of American Exceptionalism.

    Lest you think that I’m a knee jerk Obama hater, I assure you that no volunteer worked harder than I to get him elected in 08 I danced joyfully in the streets of Philly til the sun came up on the eve of his first election. And I did so not because I thought he would be a savior, but because I thought that he would be a good president. I danced because I took his election as a sign of America putting its racist history back a bit farther in the past.

    Oh how profound is my disappointment. Obama is a tool, a kabuki dancer.

    Viva la revolucion!!!!!

  4. Idrea Says:

    Liked & shared. 🙂

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