Now, I’m sure that we’ve all heard that there’s now a deal on the table to get the chemical weapons out of Syria, and that the process will begin shortly.
This is being hailed as a major victory for Obama, on the grounds that Obama has managed to avoid war while still accomplishing his objective.
This is slightly ridiculous, for the following reasons:
1. Syria has no reason to fear a US strike if it does not comply, given what a ditherer the American president has been on the issue. First he talks about Assad needing to go, then he barely seems to do anything about it. His incentive to give up chemical weapons is minimal. Technically, there’s a deal with Russia. However, Russia may or may not be helpful. We really don’t know if this going to work out, and my money’s on not.
2. Measuring foreign policy successes solely by what is said will happen and that no one is going to die soon is frighteningly boneheaded. See Munich 1938 for an example. Now, Syria is not Germany, and Bashar al-Assad is not Hitler. However, we don’t know if this hasn’t set us up for something worse as a result. The only thing worse that foes deciding that your trigger finger is slightly itchy is if they decide it’s frozen.
Now, as for those of you who think I’m being unfair to the President, no one notices that your trigger finger’s frozen if you don’t pull out your gun. Which brings me to the next point…
3. This is still not what Obama said he wanted. What the President said he wanted, and has said repeatedly that he wants, is for Assad to go–well, until the prospect of actual military action occurred. Then he started talking himself down.
Now, here’s the thing. As has been explained numerous times, I don’t want us in Syria. I also don’t want a President who won’t follow through on what he says he wants. That kind of thing is just asking for trouble down the line.
Here’s why. International diplomacy runs on, for lack of a better term, credit. Your credit goes up and down based on how well your word matches up to your actions. If you act like a blusterer, people don’t take you seriously, then you end up in fights you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Now, I want to address the Iraq war problem. The problem was not that we pulled the trigger on Iraq. The problem wasn’t that we intervened in Iraq–Saddam Hussein needed killing. The problem was the horrific botching of the whole thing. Iraq had a significant population of people who at least kind of like us–the Kurds–and had a pretty decent chance of not being taken over by radical Islamists or Iranian allies.
In point of fact, we had that chance in Syria two years ago. Now we don’t.
But, anyway, you can also get into trouble by going off half-cocked. (See Iraq) However, going to the other extreme is not the way to go about doing foreign policy.
But, here’s the thing. Maybe all of this is all part of some kind of master plan put together by Barack Obama and John Kerry and we’re going to see some kind of magnificent awesomeness occur that will result in everything going like it should in this matter.
I will happily be wrong in that case.
But I don’t think I am.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness