Obama's Provocative Syria Retreat
In the eyes of the only people who really matter - Bashir Assad, Vlad Putin, Ayatolla Khameni, Kim Jong Un, and assorted lesser examples of ruthless heads of state, not to mention terror groups - Barrack Obama has retreated from his redline. He has blinked and they think they have his number.
This makes President Obama's Rose Garden Retreat a highly provocative act. Not provocative as in a missile attack, but rather provocative as in telling the bad guys they can go ahead and push hard, this guy will fold. It is an open invitation to do more than use chemical weapons or other WMDs. It is a signal that America will not back up its threats.
They may be mistaken in this belief, which makes the situation all the more dangerous.
Charles Krauthammer calls it "amateur hour," which is a bit of an insult to the many gifted amateurs out there who pursue a craft out of love. Obama has no love for the rough and tumble world of iron-willed men (and the rare woman like Margaret Thatcher), who relish the death match aspects of the game. Obama's counterparts see not just weakness and incompetence, but a failure to understand the game he is playing here with the Big Boys:
"[T]he most astonishing thing is the lack of any urgency," Krauthammer said. "As you say, Congress will be back in a week. He says, 'I can strike in a day or a week or a month,' as if he is a judge handing down a sentence and the execution can be any time in the future. There is a war going on. Do you think everybody is going to hold their breath, hold their arms, step aside until Obama decides when he wants to go to Congress?
"Look, I think he should go to Congress," he continued. "I think it is absolutely necessary. But he has done no preparation. What they should have done - I mean, this is sort of amateur hour. When there were the first attacks six months ago or if you like, when we had the current attacks, he should have immediately have called in the Congress the way the prime minister of Britain had called in the parliament, had a debate and got a resolution and then went out and told the world we are going do x or we are not going to do x."
President Obama punted the issue to Congress mostly out of domestic considerations, for political cover. That makes him all the weaker to his counterparts in the zero sum game of world power. Even if he ever works up the will to enforce some future redline, he may lack the ability to act.
All of this leaves me a queasy feeling that something really, really bad could happen. Maybe we'll be lucky and Obama's provocative weakness will not occasion the expected reaction. God save the United States.
Update: Richard Fernandez agrees weith my interpretation and goes furthber, calling it "surrender."