Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What the Obama administration convinced me of on Syria [updated more]

Regarding the Syria crisis/debacle, I'm in agreement with James Taranto's column here.
Last week, with some intellectual exertion, this columnist formulated an argument that approving the resolution was a less bad option than rejecting it. The administration's recklessly erratic presentation of its case in the ensuing days has made remaining convinced of that argument too exhausting for us.
Me: If I were in Congress, I don't see how I could vote for a use-of-force resolution after listening to the official case for one, notably including Kerry's threat of an "unbelievably small" attack if the chemical weapons are not handed over (a condition that is not feasible amid a civil war anyway)--a threat that, if I didn't know better, I'd think was calculated to draw derision and contempt; and an unidentified official's Cheerios-with-a-fork analogy, which combines irresolution with inanity (and probably inaccuracy, in that I doubt eating Cheerios with a fork would even be difficult). If Obama has a better case to make, it would be good to hear it tonight.

If I were in Congress, also, I'd be looking into the possibility of an authorization giving flexibility for a response in the event of another chemical weapons attack. And Obama should sign off on such a policy, recognizing that he doesn't have the public and congressional support for war now, but affirming that the United States is not going to stand around indefinitely while Syria repeatedly drops poison gas on children. Meanwhile, quietly step up whatever belated aid is going to the non-Al Qaeda rebels, and try to piece this disastrously broken fiasco of a foreign policy back together over time.

UPDATE 9:25 am: An interesting, and appealing, angle on not taking military action now--rather than "degrading" Assad's military, hold the dictator personally responsible: Mark Stout on the "speech that the president should give."

UPDATE 12:30 pm: "The Syria Solution: Obama Got Played by Putin and Assad."That seems true, in that a full and verifiable turnover of Syria's chemical arsenal is, to say the least, unlikely; it's not clear the Assad regime could accomplish such a thing amid that country's current chaos even if it wanted to. Still, I can't blame the Obama administration for doing what it can to back out of the corner it put itself in with such incredible, painful-to-watch, protracted incompetence. Also, Kerry has demonstrated to me quite clearly something that I was not so sure of circa 2006: that my vote for George W. Bush in 2004 was the right one. I'm also feeling pretty upbeat about voting for Romney in 2012.

UPDATE 9/11: I saw the speech. Certainly an improvement over the last few days, but that's a very low bar. An interesting question is how did U.S. policy get into such a mess in the first place? Was this an example of U.S. interventionism run amok? Partly, yes, with the ill-considered "red line" remark, but non-interventionism was crucial in setting the stage for this foreign-policy debacle. The reluctance to aid the rebels, and to bolster relatively moderate and democratic forces among them, led to Al Qaeda types gaining ground among the opposition, as well as encouraging the Assad regime to think it could act with impunity.

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