For the past two weeks, the Obama administration has flip-flopped around like a fish out of water. Obama and his crack foreign policy team have been looking for a way to avoid the military response that Obama, himself, threatened a year ago if Bashar al Assad employed chemical weapons against the “rebels” trying to oust him from his seat of absolute power in Syria.
Well, a year went by, and someone actually used chemical weapons. The Obama administration has claimed categorically that the perpetrator of this execrable act was the Assad regime, and that it resulted in the deaths of 1,400 civilian men, women and children. He declared that Assad would face a military response. He warned Assad about what weapons would be used, where they would be used, and with what force they would be used.
Now he was in a position commonly known as “Put up, or shut up!”
But our President, being the person he is, is utterly incapable of shutting up, so he was forced into the situation that required him to “put up”, or attack Syria.
Of course, Obama gave Assad plenty of time to relocate any of his really important war materiel to places not on Obama’s announced target list. It was almost as if our President paraphrased his own empty rhetoric concerning the Affordable Care Act, in effect telling the Syrian regime: “If you like your weapons, you can keep them.”
Then he went looking for allies to share the burden of this threatened, yet ineffectual, strike against Assad. He was told by the British Parliament (politely, I’m sure) “You can’t be serious!” The French offered moral support only. Everyone else (also politely, no doubt) told the leader of the free world that they’d love to help, but they had a prior commitment. Perhaps our “smartest guy in the room” President has finally found out the real meaning of the old saying “It’s lonely at the top.”
But why did Obama make a threat of military force in the first place? Yes, chemical weapons are not selective and civilians become “collateral damage.” Are artillery shells all that selective? How about bombs dropped from high speed jet aircraft? Even so-called surgical airstrikes by U.S. forces, using the most technologically sophisticated weapons on the planet, kill innocents that just happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
So much for being selective.
But Assad and his opponents between them have already killed something on the order of 100,000 people using, according to Obama, weapons that were much more selective. Does this mean that if you’re killed by one of these slightly more selective weapons, you’re not quite as dead as someone who dies from a chemical weapon? Maybe Obama will appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to explain it all to us.
Yes, should chemical weapons fall into the hands of the forces opposing Assad, there is the potential for a catastrophic escalation of deaths. Regardless of the spin being generated at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, many of the rebels are not in fact Syrians, but (according to some reports) are up to 50% of them are actually imported Al Qaeda fighters. Given the jihadist/radical Islamist mindset of these fighters, they would pose an existential threat to not only any Muslim nations that might want to remain neutral (or, like Iran, those who support Assad), they pose a threat to every Western nation in Europe as well as the Americas, north and south.
On the other hand, Assad seemed to be winning this civil war, and while it would take time and many more civilian deaths, he was in no imminent danger of having to grab the passbooks for his Swiss bank accounts and make a mad dash for the nearest airport. Absent massive infusions of more powerful and sophisticated military hardware, Bashar al Assad was going to win.
Russia is an ally of Assad so they wouldn’t be supplying the rebels with war making materiel. Obama is playing to his political base by only supplying humanitarian type aid. China, even though siding with Russia in the U.N. Security Council, really doesn’t have any geopolitical interest at stake in Syria. This means only that the current momentum of the civil war favors Assad.
And then Obama opened his mouth, and as Obama, himself, said, the calculus changed. If America lobbed a hundred or so missiles at Syrian targets, the momentum of the Syrian civil war would change, and not to the benefit of Assad.
And if Assad had a problem, then so did Russia and Vladimir Putin. Russia has always wanted a warm water port. Assad offered one in Syria, and should Assad lose, after being supported by Russian arms shipments, the rebels, being fanatic ideologues themselves, most likely would not objectively evaluate the realpolitik of the situation, and would rebuff attempts by Russia to maintain control of their warm water anchorage in Tartus.
Russia would also like to make sure that those chemical weapons stay out of the hands of Muslim radicals. Chechnya, breeding ground for the terrorists that bombed the Boston marathon is an exemplar of the problem for Russia. In fact, the Russians warned us about Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. When it comes to radical Islamic terrorism, Russia and American appear to feel a common bond.
If Assad were to lose, and these radicals might eventually control such weapons in the region around Syria, is enough to give Russian security forces nightmares. Sharing those weapons of mass death with their ideological counterparts in one of the Russian republics is an outcome of the Syrian civil war that the Russians must as a matter of national survival, take very seriously.
When Secretary of State, John Kerry, tossed the idea out that the United States would forebear striking Syrian targets if Assad promised to turn over all his chemical weapon stockpiles within a week (a physical impossibility even with all the good will in the galaxy), the Russians jumped on it, and formally proposed to negotiate such a deal.
Even though the administration’s talking heads and myth spinners have tried to claim that this was Obama’s cunning scheme all along, no one is really buying it. Russia wanted to prevent Assad losing control of Syria, and thus losing both their warm water port and a naval base in the always volatile eastern Mediterranean. They also wanted to prevent wild-eyed Muslim fanatics from taking control of Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
This is the real issue in the Syrian quagmire. Russia’s warm water port and potential attacks by Islamic radicals versus Obama’s ego. Obama is trying to use the Russian “offer” to weasel out of “putting up” without appearing to back down on his threats.
Like so many other of Obama’s initiatives, he’s losing. Next on his agenda to try to rescue the Syrian farce will undoubtedly be a move to blame George Bush. For a man described as the “smartest guy in the room” he certainly seems to have a serious learning disability.
Originally published at Canada Free Press.
I want this blog to be a forum to discuss the issues of the day (or week, month, year…whatever). But you, my friends, need to respond. A discussion where only one person is speaking is not really a conversation; it’s merely a lecture…or worse, it’s a sermon.
Please feel free to use the comments section or even rate this particular blog entry. I can’t improve my ability to communicate without honest critiques, and only the reader can note where I might have communicated more clearly or where I should have expanded the ideas. I will even admit (in the theoretical sense, anyway) that it might be possible that I might be wrong about something.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join the conversation.