President Obama was quizzed while in Israel on whether there was evidence the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons. He was going to get right on it, he assured the media. Over the weekend, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) insisted there was evidence of chemical weapons use.
The Post has two rather stunning revelations about the administration’s posture. First, despite years of discussion, it has no plan if the weapons are used. That’s right:
“If we had to go in tomorrow, I’d say we aren’t ready,” said an Obama administration official involved in preparations for securing Syria’s chemical weapons. “One thing we want to avoid is having one group securing the sites and another group bombing them.”
The level of uncertainty surrounding U.S. contingency planning two years into a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people contrasts with the clarity of Obama’s repeated admonitions to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
This is shocking in its irresponsibility and recklessness. One imagines that, because we have no agreed-upon plan, the administration will never find full-proof evidence that chemical weapons have been used. If the administration is this derelict about Syria, one can only imagine in what disarray the Iran military option planning must be. It is news like this that convinces Israelis that Obama is all talk and no action; they would be foolish to sacrifice their own security on the basis that he will confirm Iran’s red line has been crossed and act accordingly regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.
The second revelation concerns how disadvantaged we have been by “leading from behind.” The Post reports:
The CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services have expanded their collection efforts against Syria over the past year. But U.S. officials said that the CIA has not established a presence in the country and that the scope of the conflict has precluded it from distributing sensors that could detect chemical attacks.
Asked whether such devices were being used, one senior U.S. official said, “I wish.”
Again, the inattention to our security objectives is remarkable, as is the utter refusal to implement a policy that would be consistent with the president’s admonition that the use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer.” Were national security officials told not to bother putting in place detection systems, or is the national security apparatus so inept that no one pushed ahead with establishing a means of verifying chemical-weapons use?
These revelations confirm the administration’s determination to see no evil, hear no evil for fear they might be required to act against evil. House and Senate oversight committees should haul the appropriate officials up to testify about this sorry state of preparation and readiness. And the president should explain to the American people why he’s not been attending to this.