Secretary of State John Kerry just delivered a compelling case for military action against
Iraq Syria. Here is what you need to know:
1. The president didn’t give it. This is both weird and shameful. Isn’t he commander in chief? Perhaps he is feeling humiliated (after the British rebuffed him) or can’t stand the obvious similarity to his predecessor’s actions, which he previously deplored, or just doesn’t believe in what he is doing. Does he now understand he has no credibility with the American people?
2. Kerry’s insistence just a few years ago that we could deal with Bashar al-Assad and his strong opposition to the Iraq War make it seem like another Kerry (a better one!) has emerged. Now, he talks about the unacceptability of WMD’s, the necessity of U.S. action, the inability of the United Nations to act and the impact this will have on Iran. Donald Rumsfeld could have given the speech.
3. After building a tremendous case for action any policy that approximates a meaningless gesture would be ludicrous and humiliating. It would confirm that even when we know better, we are incapable of acting.
4. No one gave that speech before the British Parliament voted yesterday (or anything like this speech at any time). Why not? We’ve had a total failure of presidential leadership.
5. The decision to deny gas masks to the rebels (and in turn the civilian population) in Syria now stands as a monstrous act of moral indifference. Kerry ticked off the numbers —1,429 dead including at least 426 children (and still counting) — who might have been alive today had we heeded the pleas for the masks. Whoever made the call should be identified and disqualified from public service for life. (The president if he was even aware of this is of course the one principally responsible for our government’s actions.)
6. This was the best speech of Obama’s presidency and Obama didn’t give it.
7. The administration keeps insisting this is not like Iraq. It is just like Iraq. The intelligence community was just as convinced Iraq had WMD’s as they are now that Syria used them.
8. On a personal level this is tremendous vindication for the Bush administration and those who were vilified. It turns out unilateral action based on a combination of humanitarian and strategic based on intelligence about WMD use is justified. That said, the difference may be that George W Bush did something about it and Kerry’s boss, who won’t come out of the witness-protection program, isn’t likely to remove Bashar al-Assad in the way Bush took out Sadaam Hussein.
9. You wonder if anyone in the administration — those who kissed up to Assad, who counseled against action, who denied aid, who denied gas masks — feels the tinniest bit ashamed. I suppose we will have to wait for a memoir.
10. At least someone in this administration has learned that the only atrocity prevention board that matters is the U.S. military.