I watched Mr. Obama’s press conference from Russia this morning, where he, largely, kept pushing his case for striking Syria as payback for using chemical weapons. (If you didn’t see the new conference and would like to, I’m sure it’s hanging around CNN or YouTube or someplace. It was pretty interesting.)1
I think he made a fairly compelling case for bombing, assuming he was living in a different, and better, world. (yes, I know they will likely not use bombs, but missiles, but “bombing” is easier for me to type, for some reason. Bear with it or fuck off, is my thought on the matter.)
What he is saying is that the world has established norms for war, and one of them is that we not use chemical weapons. I forget the exact number he used, but something not too much less than 200 countries have signed up to this norm thru one treaty or agreement or another. His argument is that no offending country will be dissuaded from using chemical weapons if the international community does nothing about this flagrant violation of international norms and expectations by Syria.
I think that’s a pretty persuasive argument, or would be in a different world.
The world we live in, however, is a world of hypocrisy, bullshit, and ball-less-ness (ballessness? Ball-lessness? I dunno, who gives a shit. You take my point, no?) where threats and red lines are tossed out all the time, and nothing happens when they are violated. I mean, if I tell my kid, pick up your room or I’m gonna knock you on your ass, and she doesn’t and I don’t…then what has she learned? She’s learned that I don’t mean what I say, that she may or may not clean up her room as is her wont, that I’m a paper tiger and either I don’t really care, or I don’t have spine enough to do what I threatened to do to get her motivated, and that, really, it was just a bunch of noise.
How is the situation with Syria any different, and why should it be? The world has threatened lots of things, and the world has done nothing about those same things when threats are tested. So for Obama to take the stand he has confuses me. I don’t understand it, and I don’t understand why now, why here.
I reject the posit that he’s looking for an excuse to get us more fully involved in Syria, and is using this as a fillip to do so. The country would never stand for that and Congress, in that situation, might find some balls and stop him. I don’t think that’s it…EVEN THOUGH…his terrorist buddies are in the revolution up to their necks, and toppling Assad would be a fine way of helping them out. But, no, I don’t think that.
I don’t see that he has anything to gain politically, either, by doing this. It doesn’t seem that anyone wants us to get involved, and whatever their reasons are, he seems politically handicapped by the position he finds himself in…and I think that is the point. I think he spouted off about that “red line” of using chemical weapons a few months ago, or whenever it was, thinking he would have England, at least, at his side, and probably others. And I think he was surprised or shocked (if those are different) when he found himself in the position of making a case that no one wanted to hear, let alone support.
So what was he supposed to do?
One thing he could have done, which no politician ever does, is say, “Oh…shit. No one cares? Ok guess I misread this one…” and gone on down the road.
What he did, instead, was toss the ball to Congress. If Congress goes along with bombing Syria, he’s in the clear. “Hey, you guys could have said “no.”” If they say “no,” then what? Well, on the one hand, he can rest, with the decision taken out of his hands, so to speak, and he is “politically clear,” if you will, and can do nothing and blame Congress when Assad gasses some more of his muslims.
What will he do? In the press conference this morning, he was asked twice what he would do if Congress said “no dice.” He refused to answer the question directly. In fact, he pointed that out the second time he was asked, uncharacteristically for a politician. Paraphrasing, he told the reporter he didn’t give a firm answer the first time, did he (the reporter) expect to get a different answer this time? So he didn’t rule out going against Congress if things don’t go his way.
But he also said that he wasn’t doing this, going to Congress, as a political ploy, that he wanted and needed their advice…and he hinted, or seemed to, that he would go along with what they have to say. While I trust NO politician, and take everything any of them say with a huge grain of salt (I guess that would be a salt chunk rather than grain) he sounded sincere and, really, it would seem politically expedient to follow Congress’ attitude, no?
So what I take from all this is two things. One, I think he’s sincere in his desire to teach Assad a lesson, whether that lesson is learned or not. I think he’s sincere in thinking that chemical weapons, and those who use them, need to be brought up short and quashed. But, two, I think he finds himself in a pickle leadershipishly and politically, and is doing what he can to get out of it.
While I think the President’s argument is persuasive, and while I would support his position in a world where the United States, at least, did as it said it was going to do when we issue ultimatums, I find myself still not convinced that anything good will come from nailing Assad…well, except dead muslims, always a good thing.
And, is it just me, or does Assad look like a fucking cartoon character to you?
Footnotes and stuff:
- And why do you suppose I used a little bitty font for that? Beats me. I just thought it would be nice. You know, not really necessary, because you people know as much about how to find news on the net as I do and, anyway, the parentheses accomplish the same task, right? But I thought it looked kinda cool.