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Unbelievably Unsyrious

Photo by Robert Jordan / Ole Miss Communications
Photo by Robert Jordan / Ole Miss Communications

“Unbelievably small.” Those are Secretary of State John Kerry’s words, in describing how big the Obama Administration’s on-again, off-again strikes against Syria would be.

By: Madison attorney, Cory Wilson

Kerry could have been describing President Obama’s stature on the world stage. And, Kerry’s own.

It has been a disastrous few weeks for Obama, and, unfortunately, America. The world is a more dangerous place for freedom-loving people everywhere. Our allies, what’s left of them, must be horrified; our enemies no doubt are emboldened.

Kerry’s unfortunate word choice can be adapted to describe Obama’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East:

Unbelievably incompetent.

Unbelievably contradictory and confused.

Unbelievably incoherent.

Unbelievably naïve.

At this writing (Syria policy changes by the hour), Obama is declaring a diplomatic pause from his efforts to gain Congressional approval of his “plan” to strike Syria. Ostensibly, the vote in Congress will be suspended to formalize a “breakthrough” proposal offered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to require Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to turn over all his chemical weapons for inspection by the United Nations.

In reality, this “pause” was more like the invocation of the mercy rule in softball than diplomacy. The President was about to suffer a humiliating repudiation in Congress of historic proportions.

The Russian proposal was a lifeline to save Obama from his own incompetence. But the humiliation of losing a war vote in Congress may pale in comparison to the humiliation inflicted on America as a result of Obama’s being played by Putin.

Obama has given America a new Sputnik moment. Obama has simultaneously diminished America’s power and credibility and yielded the world stage to Putin. Is this what Obama meant when he told the Russians he would have more “flexibility” after he was re-elected?

And the achievement is shared by Secretary Kerry. The Russian proposal arose after another Kerry gaffe.

When Kerry was asked on Monday what Assad could do to avoid war, Kerry replied that Assad “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.” Putin and the Syrians pounced on Kerry’s remark.

First the Russians turned it into their “serious” proposal. Then the Syrians immediately stated that they were agreeable to it.
Result: Putin looks like the peacemaker in the Middle East. Assad gets a renewed lease on power and will probably never give up his chemical stockpiles. The U.S. looks feckless, and foolish.

Obama, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton before him, have been playing checkers. The Russians just beat them at chess.

Of course, before the Russian “breakthrough,” Team Obama was already horribly mishandling the Syria crisis. Obama’s “red line” for Assad, made off the cuff last August, was ill advised. But over the last few weeks, the red line has been confused, contradicted, retreated, trotted back out.

There may be a case for striking Syria. I have even heard a few Republicans and commentators offer plausible rationales for intervention. But here’s a good rule: if the President has to depend on people outside the Administration to explain the case for war, maybe that’s a war he shouldn’t fight.

Something struck me last week as Obama was arriving in Russia for the G-20 summit. Putin announced that Russia would supply Syria with missile defense components to defend against U.S. attacks. Putin also indicated that Russia may intervene on Syria’s side, and replace assets destroyed by a U.S. strike.

Compare Putin’s boldfaced support of Syria to the Obama Administration’s decision in 2009, with no advance notice to our allies, to scrap plans for missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Though the Administration denied it, throwing Poland and the Czech Republic under the bus was seen as integral to Obama’s “reset” with Russia.

We endanger our allies and appease Russia. Russia brazenly offers its ally a missile shield.

Obama has been saying for days now that Congress must vote to authorize his use of force because America’s credibility is on the line.

But our credibility is at risk because of Obama’s utterly inept foreign policy. Obama, in setting his now-famous “red line” in Syria last August, clearly believed that his edict was enough to make the rest of the world tremble. The same arrogant naïveté traces through his Cairo speech, abdicating in Iraq, and his disastrous policy in Libya.

Now, to quote the President’s pastor/mentor, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Madison attorney Cory Wilson served as a White House Fellow in the Pentagon from 2005-06. Follow Cory on Twitter, @CoryWilsonMS, or email cory@corywilson.ms.

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