September 10, 2013

Those still trying to make sense of President Obama’s meandering “policy” on Syria can throw in the towel. Even before Obama’s Monday TV interviews began appearing, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton remarked to me, “Why are Republicans and conservatives still trying to give advice to this president?” Bolton’s point is surely enhanced by the last few days of administration bumbling.

President Obama (Jason Reed/Reuters)
President Obama (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Bolton summarized the last 24 hours: “John Kerry made a mistake by raising the chemical weapons give-up idea, the Russians jumped on it and now Obama embraces it.”

The Russia gambit is absurd. After making the case for a week or more that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to be punished, WMD use must be deterred and U.S. resolve must be demonstrated not only to Syria but also to Iran, the president is seriously considering giving Assad a pass. And he’s willing to trust the country that harbors Edward Snowden. (The Onion has outlived its purpose, it seems.)

The lesson for the mullahs in Iran is clear: Use WMDs, watch Obama flail, and then if need be cook up a deal with the Russians to give some portion of them back. There is no way to square Obama’s eager embrace of inaction with the pitch he and his top advisers have been giving for days.

More than a few foreign policy critics have pointed out that “monitoring” WMDs held by rogue states leads to massive cheating. Pyongyang and Tehran (which has refused to admit IAEA inspectors) know this all too well. Add in the context — a bloody civil war — the idea of monitoring becomes farcical. (Liberal pundits shilling for this option should beware; the charade may be too much for even the White House to sustain.)

In the context of the civil war, the Putin gimmick would be, of course, a boon to Assad and yet another blow to the rebels. (What happened to our admonition that Assad must go?) Part of the rationale for strikes, depending on which administration figure was speaking at what time, was to degrade Assad’s forces and tip the battlefield in the direction of the Syrian Free Army. With a phony deal on WMDs, that won’t happen and instead Assad will be emboldened.

The prospect of a chemical weapons deal is good news as well for the jihadis. Hannah Stuart writes:

Those who argue that the West’s response to 9/11 only aided al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts forget the powerful narrative that was already in place as a result of the Bosnian war of the early 1990s: that the West is complicit in Muslim suffering and that only groups such as al Qaeda can protect Muslim communities. Nowhere is this notion more dominant right now than in Syria, where al Qaeda is busy winning hearts and minds while the West continues to debate its role in the conflict. . . . After two and half years of fighting and more than 100,000 people killed, the story will be that al Qaeda’s fighters risked their lives for their Syrian
brothers while world leaders watched the country burn.

It is ironic that Obama’s maligned predecessor liberated 40 million Muslims in Iraq and set out to defend America and free the Afghan people (women most especially) from the ravages of the Taliban, but the current, self-congratulatory president (he ends wars, don’t you know) has abandoned Iraq entirely, is preparing to do so in Afghanistan and is looking for an excuse to do the same in Syria. Liberal interventionists should be ashamed.

That liberal surrogates and the media (I repeat myself) are marveling at the president’s adeptness at “getting out of” military action tells us all we need to know. The president puts political advantage above national security, personal viability above international responsibilities. Conservative opponents of intervention in part made this possible; a prompt agreement and support for military action would have foreclosed this charade. Now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sounds like Vladimir Putin’s PR man pushing the deal.

It’s tempting to say that all of this was carefully orchestrated. But the chances of that are akin to those that a toddler randomly pounding on a keyboard would produce a Shakespeare sonnet. Moreover, it supposes that Obama’s fumbling, reversals and serial abandonment of prior statements will go unnoticed.

I’ll stick with Occam’s Razor: We find ourselves in the current predicament because we have a president who is foolish in the extreme and more obsessed with his personal political viability than with national security. Honestly, what else explains the last two weeks?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.