Forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Rami Bleible/Reuters) Forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Rami Bleible/Reuters)

Peter Baker’s must-read piece in the New York Times paints a terrifying picture of a president blinded by ideology, too proud to follow the example of his predecessor and lackluster in his decision on Syria.

In the blinded-by-ideology department, Baker writes that “he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.” But what if events don’t cooperate? Does this mean he’s never been serious about the military option with Iran? He and other liberals often accused President George W. Bush of being “close-minded” or reluctant to admit error. But Bush backed the surge in Iraq and took a different tack in the Middle East (e.g. ostracizing Yasser Arafat, pushing the Palestinian Authority to reform). Obama, on the other hand, had a grand vision for himself that was entirely unmoored to events on the ground.

It gets worse:

Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement.

His ambivalence about the decision seemed evident even in the way it was announced. Mr. Obama left it to a deputy national security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes, to declare Thursday evening that the president’s “red line” on chemical weapons had been crossed and that support to the opposition would be increased. At the time, Mr. Obama was addressing a gay pride event in the East Room. On Friday, as Mr. Rhodes was again dispatched to defend the move at a briefing, the president was hosting a Father’s Day luncheon in the State Dining Room.

This is shameful. Is this what happened the night of the Benghazi, Libya, attack? The president couldn’t be bothered to actually lead that night, content to passively receive updates.

If he doesn’t believe in a policy, why is he doing it?  He wants to distance himself from a policy, you see, that suggests Bush was right — namely that the United States must act in defense of free people. But hiding from an announcement is like a child closing his eye to pretend no one else can see him. Moreover, it underlines how insufficient is his provision of small arms.

White House adviser Ben Rhodes says we know now much more than we did six months ago. But why didn’t we know more a year ago, or when the conflict began? Because we have a commander in chief bent on putting his head in the sand.

A former Obama adviser rightfully excoriates this too little, too late:

“I really worry this is going to be remembered as the United States standing by and watching a Middle East war ignite,” said Ms. Slaughter, who will become president of the New America Foundation in Washington in September. “I fear the president thinks he can stand apart. He’s the one who always says with power comes responsibility. That’s his line.”

Good for her.

This of course is yet another warning to Israel (and a hint to Tehran) that this president can’t be bothered with leadership in the region.

Among all the scandals in his administration, this president’s lack of interest in inhabiting the role of commander in chief and his predilection for being AWOL may be the worst of all. In Benghazi, four Americans were killed; in Syria 100,000 were killed, weapons of mass destruction were used and allies were destabilized under the flood of refugees. Even Jimmy Carter didn’t have so many deaths to account for.