Fast and Curious


ISIS: Obama’s Color–Blind Problem

Blog From
August 23rd, 2014

LFU_FastCurious_Crash_vFDid you ever notice how the color red comes up a lot in politics? It’s mostly a negative, like red tape, red herring, red ink, caught red-handed and, of course, red line. Speaking of line color, this week marks the second anniversary of President Obama’s infamous, and unfulfilled, threat against the use of chemical weapons in Syria.


A lot of red flowed from the wrong people reading nothing but bluff into Obama’s words. The following year, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government launched an attack on Damascus suburbs killing 1,500 inhabitants with the nerve agent, sarin.


For the U.S., one of the worst long-term outcomes of the attack unfolded over the following three weeks. During that period, the President engaged in repeated public displays of angst about the action he should take. He bared his soul on the international stage leaving no doubt in the end of his inability to protect American security interests. His breast-beating and ultimate abdication opened the door to a type of aggression that has not been experienced in a very long time.


On August 28, Obama confirmed in a PBS interview that the Syrian government, not the opposition, had used the chemical weapons. He agreed that there had to be consequences but he had not decided whether U.S. military strikes would be forthcoming. Meanwhile, U.N. envoys were claiming that Syria was the biggest threat facing the international community.


Two days after that, on August 30, a self-described “war weary” Obama repeated the need for a firm response. He was still undecided whether it should be military in nature, although he realized inaction was a “danger to our national security”. He also fretted publicly about sending the “wrong signal” if the international community did not respond in an appropriately decisive manner.


On September 14, 2013, Obama chose the “danger to our national security” door and sent the wrong signal. On that day, the U.S. and Russia put the finishing touches on a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons by mid-2014. The agreement concluded the American response to the sarin gas massacre.


By the end of June 2014, all chemical weapons stockpiles that Syria “declared” were removed from the country. But, there was no verification by independent examiners that all stockpiles were in fact gone. Everyone simply took the Syrian government’s word for it. Not surprisingly, the Syrians had hailed the Russia-U.S. agreement a year earlier as a victory for its side.


The agreement was also the end of any U.S. endeavor in or with regard to Syria other than ad nauseam talking. Despite requests to arm the opposition, Obama was absorbed in other international matters like his string of loses to Putin in Crimea and Ukraine.


Withholding military aid to the opposition created a vacuum that permitted ISIS to rise in Syria and extend into Iraq. Noting that fact earlier this month, Hillary Clinton observed that “don’t do stupid stuff” is not an organizing principle of great nations. Or the near great or even the not so great. Where does that put the U.S.?


Even Obama should be red-faced about a failure acknowledged both by a former Administration star and his current Secretary of Defense. Yesterday, Chuck Hagel labeled ISIS, with its apocalyptic vision and billions in funds, the most dangerous threat to the U.S. in years. But, Obama isn’t red-faced, possibly because he is now preoccupied with baring his soul again, this time over ISIS in Iraq.


The President talks too much, wrings his hands too much and makes one thing too clear. The shortest distance between now and an international disaster is through his White House. That’s no reason to paint the town red.

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