The Magazine

Assad Calls Obama’s Bluff

Sep 2, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 48 • By LEE SMITH
Widget tooltip
Audio version Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Same last week when State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked about red lines. In a press conference after the attack, she said she didn’t want to have a “debate or conversation about red lines.” “Let’s not talk about red today,” she joked. When pushed further by reporters about arms to the rebels, she read from the administration’s script: “I’m not going to outline for you what—a laundry list of what we’re doing. But we’ve talked about it in the past, we’ve talked about why we can’t talk about it in the past.”

Looking through the fog of doubletalk, the reality is that the rebels are getting no arms from the United States. Dempsey admitted as much in his letter to Engel: “We continue to deliver humanitarian and security assistance to Syria’s neighbors,” wrote Dempsey, “as well as non-lethal assistance to the opposition.” Rebel leaders have said the same for two months; there is no lethal military aid coming from Washington. The administration simply has used the press as part of an information campaign to obscure the fact that Obama is not enforcing his red line—if indeed he ever really had one to begin with.

More than two years after Obama first demanded that Assad step aside, the United States is now facing a unique moment in its long history of involvement in the Middle East. What makes it unprecedented is less the violent furies raging across the region than the fact the commander in chief has to an unprecedented degree weakened America’s hand and sullied America’s reputation. With all his empty talk, the president who says he does not bluff has made America’s word cheap.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers