Little doubt remains that this blog is read at the White House. On Thursday, August 29, 2013, I noted two things: one, the planned attack on Syria was an exercise in futility; and, the law of unintended consequences were at stake. A day later my message finally got through to the president as he walked around the White House grounds with Denis McDonough. My great-grandmother was a McDonough so that pretty much seals the deal. 🙂
Earlier on that Friday we heard from Secretary Kerry pounding away at the drums of war but that was before President Obama got the more sage advise from McDonough and others. My sense is they told him Kerry was acting as if he got elected to the presidency and he was way out in front of the president.
Aaron Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars seemed to agree: “If you compare Kerry’s statement with the president’s…there’s a huge gap there. . . . I think Kerry really, really wants to act. He wants to be activist and engaged. But it is really hard…you could make the argument that Kerry’s role is still being undercut.” I wonder if Miller thinks that it is the president who is doing the undercutting.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post pretty much laid out what is going on. Rubin questions whether Obama has earned Kerry’s loyalty after his about-face. She says Kerry has to carry the burden of going before Congress because no one else can do it. Susan Rice “has zero credibility with the American people;” Chuck Hagel “is viewed as dimwitted and likely could not have survived five Sunday show interviews;” and Joe Biden “is a loose cannon likely to go off message or spill the beans about the internal chaos in the administration.” She sums up by telling us what she thinks of the people around Obama saying: “The problem with having flunkies in key spots is that sometimes you need respected figures.
Rubin agrees with me that the limited strike makes no sense. She says: “the only deterrence that will matter and the only way to end the threat of more WMD attacks on Syrians is to destroy the chemical weapons caches or disable the military forces that will deliver them. And if our aim is to signal to Iran we won’t tolerate their acquiring a nuclear weapon, then anything short of driving Assad from office or significantly tipping the balance in favor of non-jihadists will be insufficient. That is the reality, which I suspect Kerry understands.”
Here is how things stand. Kerry has pretty much failed in bringing other countries on board. Obama for a while said he hasn’t made up his mind on military action but on Saturday he told us: “I have decided that the United States should take action against Syrian military targets. We are prepared to strike whenever we choose. This is not time-sensitive. Could be tomorrow, next week or one month from now.”
Obama’s dilemma is that to get the votes to avoid embarrassment, he has to turn to the people who have criticized his lack of passion when it comes to war. Yesterday he met with two of the biggest voices for using the military to force to enforce our will, Senators McCain and Graham at the White House. They came away satisfied that the president was going their way. Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on Sunday night. Yesterday I told you what he wants.
This tells me the attack on Syria will be much greater than originally planned and the resolution will be broad enough that it can be argued it gives the president the right to attack Iran.
Jon who has a good command of foreign policy matters wrote to William yesterday calling to his attention to this article that points out how many questions remain unanswered. Most poignantly the article suggests we are fooling ourselves if we really believe once we make war on Syria we’re not going to have to commit American troops into that country.