The Syrian Fiasco Laid Bare
The Syrian fiasco is an example of the disastrous and dangerous foreign policy of President Obama. The United States appears wishy-washy, weak, and incompetent due in large part to the rhetoric of the Obama administration. America's allies and enemies look at the foreign policy decisions and do not see the strongest nation on earth. American Thinker interviewed experts to get their opinions on Syria.
Last year, President Obama drew a "red line" when he said the U.S. would consider taking action if "we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized." A few days ago, he backed away from this statement. His response to a question on September 4: "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line when it declared chemical weapons abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding them. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty." This is just one example of how this president has flip-flopped regarding foreign policy and has left America's allies and enemies scratching their head in wonderment.
The president's rhetoric has backed him into a corner similar to a sports team that mouths off before a big game. His own secretary of state, John Kerry, during his defense of war speech explained that the need to act is "directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it because then maybe they, too, can put the world at greater risk."
Retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient, points to the flip-flop of the president as he threw his secretary of state under the bus. For some time this administration has said that it does not need congressional approval to act, yet, a day after Kerry's impassioned speech, President Obama decided to seek Congress's approval. Jacobs pointed out, "Think about what has been done. Now the secretary of state cannot go anywhere and talk to a foreign minister because no one will believe what he has to say, that he is not speaking for the White House. This president has an outrageously inept, ignorant, and stupid foreign policy. This should not be the way we conduct business. This is the amateur hour."
Jacobs also echoed the famous line by then-Secretary of Defense Gates -- namely, "to shut the f--- up" -- by saying that through the president's own rhetoric, he has backed himself into a corner. Jacobs believes that any administration should act but not talk about what it may or may not do, since "my view is that politicians can speak continuously when running as a candidate but once elected, they should shut up. This administration shoots from the hip."
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is frustrated by this president's policies and believes that the president's red line statement committed the U.S. to action. "We cannot have the president saying this is important and if this happens then that will happen, and then we do nothing. We need to sustain our credibility, or we will be paying for it for a long time. If we do nothing, it will embolden Assad, Iran, Hezb'allah, and Russia. They would walk away winners."
Assad has arrogantly said that this administration's actions have shown "[t]he start of the historic American retreat." Maybe the president wants to respond to this statement using words he uttered in 2012: "The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe[.] ... Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about."
Really? It appears to be just the opposite. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a year ago explained, "We must work to end the violence in Syria. We want to make sure the worst elements do not come to power there. We do not want to empower these extremist groups, the al-Qaedas of the world. If we sit on the sidelines, we will find ourselves in a really bad position."
Which brings us back to today. Everyone interviewed disagrees with Kerry's assertion that the Syrian rebels are America's allies. They told American Thinker that a large portion of the rebels are infiltrated by the terrorists, and they are not sure that replacing Assad is going to be any better for America. They wonder why the U.S. did not support the rebels earlier, when it could have made a difference.
Should Congress vote for limited action? Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, does not consider himself an isolationist but told American Thinker he would not vote for an American strike because "the rebels are laden with terrorists. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying. If the president goes at this alone after a no vote, he will do it without Congress, but also without the U.K. and the U.N. He will be alone. And when Assad responds to Obamas 'shot across the bow' strategy with an attack on Tel Aviv or Jordan, he can explain to the American people why this civil war was escalated."
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), also a member of the Intelligence Committee, agrees with Rooney and will vote no because he considers this all political theatre. He has followed this issue very closely because he has spent a lot of time in that region. What he wants to hear from this administration is an actual strategy of why America needs to attack, the plan of attack, and the concrete objectives that they hope to achieve. "I have not talked with one military leader who can explain what success looks like. WMD is a big problem and needs to be dealt with, but it is not Congress's responsibility to come up with a plan. This administration's policy is one mishap after another because they have no strategy and no plan."
Both Hayden and Jacobs regard any type of attack as a punitive symbol. They see the need to do something to have America's allies have at least some semblance of trust. Hayden is hoping that any action will have a psychological effect in that "it will show that America's word means something. On balance, it would be worse to do nothing."
President Obama appears to only enjoy hearing himself speak. Maybe he should go back to his October 2012 statement: "Here's one thing I've learned as commander in chief. You've got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean." This Syrian fiasco means he has not learned anything and needs to go back to school, because two years ago -- even one year ago -- would have been the time to take action, not just espouse words. Then, in the world's eyes, America would have appeared strong -- not weak, as is the case today.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.