At this point, it’s risky and probably futile to try to understand the ad hoc decisionmaking and zig-zagging public rhetoric of the Obama administration’s handling of Syria. But even before Barack Obama shares his latest thoughts on the crisis with the American people, in television interviews today and a speech tomorrow night, a new proposal and the administration’s eager response suggest another zig (or zag) might be coming.
Syrian strongman Bashar Assad will "still be able to eat Cheerios" after a U.S. strike, but he'll have to use a fork and not a spoon. At least that's the metaphor one Obama administration official used to describe the nature of a U.S. strike to USA Today.
The New York Times reported on September 5 that the United States is widening plans for proposed strikes on Syria to punish the Assad government for its alleged chemical weapons attacks. The plans now reportedly include the use of aircraft in addition to cruise missiles:
In a press conference today, President Obama defended his proposed Syria action:
"Over 1400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children. This is not something that we fabricated, this is not something that we are using as an excuse for military action," said Obama. "As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start 'em."
War presidents don’t quibble. They don’t leak. They don’t go AWOL. They aren’t dispirited or downbeat. They aren’t ambivalent about the mission. And most important of all, war presidents are never irresolute.
These are a few of the rules for presidents before, during, and after the country goes to war. On Syria, President Obama disregards all of them. This should mean one of two things. Either Obama is a poor war president, at least in the current pre-war stage, or he’s an altogether different kind of war president.
Bob Terris of the National Journal writes of the agonies facing Gerald Connolly, a Congressman whose district is in the Fairfax area of Virginia. In a few days, he must vote 'yes' or 'no' on allowing President Obama to take military action in Syria.
Lost in the debate over responding to Bashar al-Assad’s use of nerve gas is the fact that the United States has other interests in the Syrian civil war, like mitigating the effects of the war on Syria’s neighbors—Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel—and countering the regional ambitions of Assad’s key ally, Iran. Unfortunately, the president has consistently failed to advance these arguments over the last two years. The White House has also been consistent in one other respect: It has repeatedly blamed others for its failures.
According to the polls, a little more than a majority of Americans oppose intervention in Syria, although it is difficult to say exactly what this means since the subject is decidedly ambiguous. Does intervention mean the sort of limited air campaign that President Obama seems to have in mind, or does it mean "boots on the ground" and indefinite occupation? Not an easy question to answer.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that after U.S. strikes against Syria, dictator Bashar al-Assad will be able to "stand up and, no doubt, he'll try to claim that somehow this is, you know, something positive for him."