This was Barack Obama’s preposterous claim at his Wendesday press conference in Stockholm. He Continued:
The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are [sic] abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war.
But President Obama did draw the red line, himself, on August 20, 2012. The transcript is still here on the White House website. NBC reporter Chuck Todd asked if The President “envisioned” deploying the US military to ensure safe keeping of Assad’s chemical weapons. Obama’s answer:
I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.
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.
Mr. Todd followed up with, “So you’re confident it’s somehow under – it’s safe?”
In a situation this volatile, I wouldn’t say that I am absolutely confident. What I’m saying is we’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.
It’s simply not plausible that the President was speaking for “the world” rather than for himself and his Administration when he made these remarks a year ago. He did not then nor does he now justify his current position that America alone has an obligation to enforce a treaty signed by 189 nations. And the action he proposes falls short of enforcing the treaty, which requires the destruction of all chemical weapons. He and Secretary Kerry say the goal is only to discourage Assad from using them again.
Fast forward again to the Wednesday press conference in Sweden. Obama went on to claim:
My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because we give lip-service to the notion that these international norms are important.
The reference to Congress supports the cynical view expressed by some Congressmen and pundits that the only reason Obama submitted a request to Congress for authorization to conduct his “limited” operation against Assad was to be able to deflect blame in the event of unanticipated catastrophe.
In the Syrian civil war and chemical weapons matter there is little in the way of reliable, undisputed information. Speculators, some who speak with great confidence, proffer many possibilities:
- The “limited” missile and bomb attack President Obama says he has planned and ready to launch will be ineffective, and Assad will emerge to be regarded in the Middle East as a hero who survived a battle with America.
- The “limited” missile/bomb attack will work out exactly as the President and Secretary Kerry claim it will: Assad will be damaged and “degraded” and will never deploy chemical weapons again.
- The missile/bomb attack will be so effective Assad’s regime is toppled, opening the way for a new regime will govern Syria. If that happens there are at least two possibilities, depending on whose version of the situation turns out to be right:
- The rebel forces who will prevail are wholly owned subsidiaries of Al Qaeda and the Iranian theocratic thugs, OR,
- Some of the rebel forces, perhaps enough to prevail and become the new government are small d democrats who would be allies of the US and friendly to Israel.
Secretary Kerry has been at great pains to assure Congress and the nation that there are no plans for a war with “boots on the ground.”
But people with military experience know it could become war. National War College Scholar Christopher Bassford summarized thousands of years of military history. A military attack ignites:
…a dynamic, inherently unstable interaction of the forces of violent emotion, chance and rational calculation.
The inherently unstable interaction could provoke unanticipated reaction from Assad, the rebel groups, or one or more other nations, drawing America into something more complex, requiring deployment of more military resources than expected, perhaps even including ground troops. This is not a risk-free undertaking.
Even if there are no unanticipated problems collateral deaths and destruction are to be expected. Assad’s propagandists will produce photos and video of dead bodies, crippled children, and demolished schools and hospitals that Assad will claim resulted from the American attack.
Next week the President will need lots of Republican House and Senate votes because more than a few members of his own party are always against any military operation and will certainly not see his Syrian adventure as worthy of their votes. But his lack of leadership, indeed his unwillingness even to affirm his own position as the red line guy will not inspire confidence that he is competent to carry out an effective attack without horrendous complications.
The argument in favor of Congressional approval is to sustain America’s credibility in the world and especially among the thugs of the Middle East. But Obama’s conduct has already diminished our credibility.
With the polls showing overwhelming public/voter opposition, and a President who is already trying to evade accountability before the first missile lifts off, Democrats and Republicans will find it difficult to shoulder responsibility for authorizing an attack on Syria.