I don’t think anyone can state that President Obama has done a good, or even a mediocre, job at his handling of the Syrian crisis. I actually wished he went back to his great rhetorical speech-abilities and very intangible concepts. There’s a lot more nuance than action in foreign policy, and, in my opinion, he has done a horrible job in this respect. I never liked that he said that there was a “red line” (CBS News, PBS) in which he backed himself into a corner. When it comes to domestic issues, I want a candidate/public official to be specific; however, when foreign policy is concerned, then ambiguities need to be ‘established’ so that a framework can be built in which all parties concerned have a face-saving option.
On the hawkish side, why was it ‘okay’ when not just a few, but a purported hundred thousand civilians died that the conflict was okay by conventional weapons but it isn’t ‘right’ when chemical weapons kill a relatively small amount? With the dovish perspective, all I’ve got to say is “Iraq?”
I think Joe Klein of TIME magazine’s Swampland best stated the lessons that can be learned from Obama’s bungling of the situation. The second lesson learned uses advice from the Chinese: “The strongest person in the room says the least” (TIME). In whole:
2. A Chinese principle: The strongest person in the room says the least. The President of the United States is the strongest person, militarily, in the world. He doesn’t need to broadcast his intentions. He takes action, or not. He does what the Israelis did in taking out the Syrian nuclear reactor: he just does it, without advance bluster, without taking credit if possible — although it would be much harder for the U.S. to remain silent than it was for the Israelis. But it would be nice: silence, or saying very little, after the successful engenders fear and respect. The direct opposite of that is talking and dithering, which the Administration has made a specialty. The wolf doesn’t need to cry wolf. The American eagle should stand for restrained moral power — power that is absolutely lethal and purposeful when it is unleashed … but is never unleashed wantonly or without a precise plan and purpose.
Whether the problems that have stemmed from Syria were due to him or his advisers, it is always ultimately his responsibility. A brief flashback to whether Romney or McCain might have been better in this situation still leads me to think that Obama was better. I still am, though, disappointed with the President. Hopefully this is just one flaw and that he will pivot to making better decisions in the future about international geopolitics.
- Apparently Nobody Likes A Cautious Goliath (thesterlingroad.com)
- Syrian Intervention Can Only Lead to Yet Another War (truthdig.com)
- What is President Obama Thinking About With a Military Intervention in Syria? (reason.com)
- Once-brash Rice quietly builds Obama’s bridge to Congress on Syria (reuters.com)
- Syria chemical weapons response poses major test for Obama (latimes.com)
- Syria Tests the Limits of Obama’s Foreign Policy Vision (content.time.com)
- Obama’s Done on Foreign Policy (theleftcoaster.com)
- Syria: A Case Study in Foreign-Policy Incoherence (nationalreview.com)