Obama Supporters Insist Diplomatic Breakthrough on Syria Was Part of the Plan All Along, Belied by President’s Words and Actions

retconnedWhite HouseAfter John Kerry told Syria it had one week to surrender its chemical weapons or face US airstrikes, Russia stepped in by proposing Syria transfer its chemical weapons to international control. Syria agreed, and the French are working on a UN resolution to formalize the arrangement. It looks like the diplomatic breakthrough could avoid a war, so Obama supporters have been quick to claim that that was the president’s plan all along. David Axelrod asked over Twitter yesterday whether anyone though the breakthrough would’ve been possible absent the threat of military force.

It’s a convenient fiction that makes the Nobel Peace Prize recipient’s recent campaign for war seem like just another diplomatic tactic. While it’s certainly possible Syria and Russia would be less motivated to find a diplomatic solution to a problem that didn’t involve US military intervention, a diplomatic solution never appeared to be what the Obama Administration had in mind as an end game. The statement John Kerry made that got the diplomatic ball rolling, after all, was uttered sarcastically. Neither Kerry nor Obama expected Syria to respond to it in good faith—hardly the expectations of people making a good faith attempt at diplomacy.

Additionally, if the threat of military force were actually intended to secure a diplomatic breakthrough, then the president would  not have went to Congress for a vote on Syria. After all, Obama has consistently denied he needs Congressional authorization to act. Were the purpose of the threat of military force jumpstarting diplomacy, opening that threat of force to a Congressional vote far from guaranteed to be a success would be counterproductive. Threats work best when they’re not subject to question marks. And last night, Obama further weakened the argument that diplomacy was his plan all along by asking Congress to delay the vote. If the possibility of using military force was meant to pressure Syria and its allies to act responsibly, Congressional approval would only strengthen the power of that tactic.

No, far more likely is that the president called for a vote in Congress after seeing reticence among his allies and the American people for war, and hoping a vote in Congress, if in the affirmative, would help him shift blame if things go wrong, and that a vote in the negative could be used as an excuse to blame inaction on others. After all, it wasn’t Constitutional concerns that drove the president to Congress, or he wouldn’t have claimed to have the authority to act on his own. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Almanian!||

    would not have went gone to Congress

    YOUR YORE YOU'RE WELCOME!

  • Almanian!||

    Dear God - I've been Fisted!

    Er, Firsted!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Who could possibly have predicted such a thing?

  • Almanian!||

    Also, this reminds me of the Shat in one of his recent Priceline commercials - wakes up in Russia (apparently - and IRONICALLY!), "How did you get here?" "I...don't know...."

    Later on the beach: "EXACTLY as I planned it..."

    So this is just Barack channeling The Shat, which is like a Master paying homage to another Master.

    It's Mastery all the way down...the rabbit hole.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's blasphemy. Obama has zero Shat. He's Shatless.

  • MJGreen||

    What the shit is a Shat?

  • wareagle||

    william shatner

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ignorance of the Law is no excuse. Be damned.

  • ||

    He was the fourth best captain of the Enterprise.

  • Swiss Servator - Gnome Slave||

    Oh God....here we go, you Janeway lover!

  • ||

    Captain Pike uber alles!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Ed, you just don't understand how journalism works, do you? Obama is always right, and it's your job as a journalist to report the facts in support of Him.

  • John||

    As long as we don't bomb Syria for no apparent purpose and don't risk getting into a war with the Russians, I really don't care if the village idiot and his pinhead supporters want to congratulate themselves on how brilliant he is. There was no way this was going to end well. The US being a laughing stock but there not being a risk of World War III is probably the least bad of all of the possible outcomes. So let them delude themselves and just hope this thing goes away.

  • RBS||

    I'd rather listen the Obama people congratulate themselves than the hawks who think we should still go to war just to save face.

  • John||

    I am all for the US saving face. But what short of Assad being dead would save US face right now? The hawks need to understand that there is no way to save face with Obama as President. This is the price of electing a village idiot supported by stupid white people.

  • RBS||

    I don't even know what saving face would look like in the situation.

  • John||

    Frankly neither do I. Obama is so stupid and his statements so incoherent, I can't figure out what "face" is.

  • Drake||

    I've been pretty embarrassed about our President since at least '93 (HW just annoyed me). Obama takes it to a new level, but what difference does it make?

  • Free Society||

    This settles it. Obama is a diplomatic GENIUS. 4 more years, 4 more years!

  • Number 2||

    Give it a week. It will be portrayed as the second coming of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • Number 2||

    Unless the diplomatic initiative fails. Then it will be portrayed as the courageous international leader betrayed by evil Republican isolationists.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Unless the diplomatic initiative fails.

    Kerry gave them a week, right? Not sure what day that was, but isn't that week about finished?

  • RBS||

    Wait, the new "diplomatic initiative" is really just another red line?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I couldn't stand to watch, but I read the transcript. It's complete bullshit from end to end, and is full of outright lies. He makes it sound like asking for approval from Congress is practically unprecedented, and something the last guy never did. (Just like our resident idiot, it's always BOOOOOSSSHHHH!!! with this guy, no matter the subject.)

  • John||

    It is all lies and completely incoherent. I read that speech and was left wondering if even wanted to bomb Syria at all.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them.

    Yeah, because bombs can't kill on a mass scale, and differentiate between soldier and infant. That's why drone missiles are perfectly safe for children. It's fucking ridiculous. Nobody else would get away with saying stupid ass shit like this.

  • John||

    I think there is a case to be made that gas is different and worse. Of course Obama has to low of an IQ to make it. The problem is that if it is different and worse, then Assad needs to go. And Obama isn't advocating for that.

    The speech doesn't even make internal sense. He spends part of it making the case that Assad is the worst thing since Hitler and well being of the entire international community depends on us making him pay for gassing people and then in the next breath assures us that the action he plans to take is no big deal and won't really effect anything.

    It is the dumbest and most incoherent speech I have ever heard a President make. It is embarrassing. Obama really is as stupid as his worst critics claim him to be. In fact he is dumber. His worst critics give him credit for being able to have a coherent world view.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I think there is a case to be made that gas is different and worse.

    I think there's a case to be made that chemical weapons are inefficient and practically useless weapons of war, especially a civil war, and a complete distraction. Killing off your population isn't the strategy of most dictators, so, in a war where territory might be controlled by your enemy, but largely inhabited by those neutral in the conflict what purpose does it serve? IMO, having everyone focused on CW's does nothing but benefit Assad. While everyone frets over useless weapons Assad can continue to receive the weapons he really needs to win from his allies.

  • John||

    That is just it. They are useless as weapons of war. So unlike bombs or rifle rounds, they are nothing but terror weapons and thus worse.

    But that is neither here nor there. Whatever the case is, Obama didn't effectively make it or even if he had, drew any sort of coherent conclusion from it.

  • SIV||

    They are useless as weapons of war.

    Unless your enemy is holed up in caves or tunnels.

  • Brett L||

    Trenches?

  • Sevo||

    Brett L| 9.11.13 @ 11:26AM |#
    "Trenches?"

    So the Krauts opened the valves and then realized the wind was blowing west to east!

  • General Butt Naked||

    they are nothing but terror weapons and thus worse.

    Isn't that a bit of question begging?

  • Number 2||

    WTF do the Nazi death camps have to do with the use of chemical weapons in war?

    And of course, chemical weapons are far more horrible than firebombing cities or dropping two atomic bombs. Because radiation and nuclear blasts distinguish between combatants and children, right?

  • Brett L||

    Huh. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and near revolts of European populaces over the ruined soldiers who survived WWI gassing are conveniently elided. The "civilized" nations had to ban gas or they'd never be able to war on each other. The armies would revolt and overthrow their own governments.

  • Drake||

    I don't have the fortitude to watch an Obama speech. Maybe I'm projecting when I assume nobody else can watch him either.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Yes, because Obama is a sekret warmonger that has gotten us into --- what - ZERO wars in 4.5 years.

  • John||

    As long as you don't consider bombing people in like 8 different countries, a "war". Fuck you shreek. You own Obama's body count you sick little fucking weirdo.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. If you want to get all technical about it, the last president that got us into a war was FDR.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    There's nothing "sekret" about it.

  • Drake||

    Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, his desire to bomb Syria - are these black ops only I know about?

  • Sevo||

    Yes, shreek, you're exactly the sort of lying piece of shit about which the article is written.
    Thanks for making so obvious.

  • ||

    God, you are a disgusting excuse for a human being. You are a mendacious piece of excrement.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Try five, shriek.

    Afghanistan (he surged it, he bought it)
    Yemen
    Libya

    Pakistan (Drone Justice)
    Uganda

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Palin's Buttwipe,

    Yes, because Obama is a sekret warmonger that has gotten us into --- what - ZERO [sic!!!!] wars in 4.5 years.


    Does his semen taste like chocolate, Buttwipe? Because you seem to be very fond of it.

  • ||

    Most importantly, the NSA, Benghazi and IRS scandals are no longer the stories du jour for the MSM.

    Anyone sick of me continually pointing this out? Yes? Well fuck you!

    Regardless of whether it was planned or not...it worked. Instead of going down as the most oppressive, statist administration EVER, it will ALL be OBE and forgotten about.

    Hey, look over there!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You'd think a fake scandal as big as Benghazi would get some more ink on its anniversary.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You can tell it's a "fake scandal" because the administration is cooperating fully with the congressional investigation. And besides, we've all seen the survivors telling their stories to the media, so what more could there possibly be to find out at this point?

  • John||

    They will be back. They are not going away. And you give Obama too much credit. If his plan were to create a crisis to destract people, he would have more coherent and better thought out talking points. Sure, putting the scandals off of the front page is a side effect of all this. But I really can't see how Obama intended that.

    Obama has spent his entire life around other leftists and guilty white liberals. No one has ever held him to his word. He is a community organizer and faculty lounge liberal. That means you get to sit around and talk shit all day and everyone tells you how smart you are. So, that is exactly what he does as President. Generally, that doesn't matter because people stopped paying attention to anything he said a long time ago. But when he made the "red line" comment it did because the rest of the world was listening. Everything that occurred after that has been him and his administration blundering around trying to deal with the fact that someone actually for once paid attention to what the fucking moron had to say. That is really all that is going on here.

  • ||

    But when he made the "red line" comment it did because the rest of the world was listening.

    I don't think he made the Red Line comment intentionally. I do, however, think he (or an advisor) decided that since it's already out there, we'll use it to distract the media. We'll beat the war drum, get everyone worked up and the scandals will go away. Sure, we'll look like rank amateurs, but we won't get impeached, which was a very real possibility for at least two of the three scandals.

    After this, no one will care enough to bother.

  • wareagle||

    he ignored that the red line comment, like all red line comments, are only effective if someone believes there will be actual and painful consequences for crossing such a line. If there is no perceived meaning behind the implied threat, then it's just rhetoric which pretty much sums up Obama.

  • ant1sthenes||

    My god, man, haven't you been listening? The consequences for Assad will be dire indeed -- an unbelievably small, pinprick strike.

  • ||

    "This is the line of death. You cross it, you die." {Pause} "Okay, you cross this line, you die." {Pause} "Okay, you cross this line, you die." "This line, you die." "Okay, you're knocking on my door, I'm not coming out. Naaaaah"

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Mother of All Prattles.

  • CatoTheElder||

    The President said it would NOT be a pin prick strike.

    It's going to be an unbelievably small prick.

  • PBR Streetgang||

    "an unbelievably small prick"
    Robert Reich?

  • John||

    No. What happened was he made the comment and then the Turks and the Isrealis and a lot of other people took notice. And the entire DOS and White House shit their pants. Everything that has happened after that has been them blundering around trying to extract themselves from this. There was no plan. They are not trying to distract from anything. They don't need to. They have an entire state run media complex to make sure those scandals are never reported on or when they are they are diminished to the greatest possible degree. They don't need to do this. This is pure incompetence and nothing else.

  • tarran||

    It's also important to remember that the Saudi's really, really, want Assad kicked out and Sunnis in charge in Syria.

    It's not obvious to me why, although I can think of several motivations:
    1) Weakening Iran
    2) The Wahabbist desire to punish apostates and heretics like the Shiites and Alawites
    3) A civil war in Syria serves as a new jihad on which to send would-be revolutionary religious zealots to die so that they aren't causing problems for the monarch
    4) A warning to Iraq not to get too cozy with Iran.

    The Saudi public silence is like the dog that didn't bark in the Sherlock Holmes mystery in The Silver Blaze: very curious. I suspect that much of the public international pressure on Obama was coming from the Saudi public relations arm.

  • John||

    It certainly wouldn't be bad for the US to see Assad gone. And if Obama were saying his goal was to remove Assad, that would make some sense. But he has specifically said he doesn't want to do that. To me that says that they have no plan or any idea what to do and were hoping to ignore Syria until dumb ass made the red line comment forcing them to deal with it.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Saudi media have been strongly anti-Assad in the past. Its recent silence is indeed very curious.

  • Sevo||

    You left out the DEA snooping and the debt.

  • ||

    You know Ed, you guys should really circulate an email in the morning:

    Ideas for H&R

    And then...I know, this is crazy...and then pick ONE PERSON to hit on a topic.

    FFS the redundancy is getting a bit ridiculous.

  • RBS||

    I agree. Have one person cover the major story of the day/week then everyone else can write about other things of interest to libertarians. Just don't subject us to death by poll again.

  • ||

    I wonder what percentage of the commentariat would agree with that. Emily? Emily? Beuller?

  • RBS||

    I'm not saying no more polls. Just not more than one a day at most and certainly none from anyone not named Emily Ekins.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Depends. How many of these hypothetical poll posts will have alt-text?

  • Hugh Akston||

    But how do other people feel about it? Perhaps we should conduct a poll.

  • ||

    It certainly wouldn't be hilarious at all if Putin were to pull the diplomatic rug out from Obama's feet.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I think the best of all possible worlds is that the US was up to some truly obscenely shady shit in Benghazi, and Russia has evidence and brings it to the UN council, and the Administration ends up either going to jail here or being tried in the Hague. Hi-lar-ious.

  • MJGreen||

    I'm afraid to check in on some of my old political haunts, because I'm sure there are still some proggies congratulating Obama on his five-dimensional chess game, perhaps with his face superimposed on Batman or Superman. I'm sure Axelrod's sentiment will be latched on to by many, many Obama fans.

  • wareagle||

    sure it will. The hallmark of the Obamabots is to clamp onto what he says today, no matter how badly it contradicts what he said yesterday.

    I used that line before and I'm going to stick with it a while.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Have you heard? The Chocolate ration will increase to 20 grams this month.
    Praise Obama.
    Praise Obama.

  • Swiss Servator - Gnome Slave||

    Double Plus Good!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Obama supporters have been quick to claim that that was the president’s plan all along. David Axelrod asked over Twitter yesterday whether anyone though the breakthrough would’ve been possible absent the threat of military force.

    Obama's plan is what it has always been: bomb, bomb, bomb Syria. John Kerry's gum-flapping gave the Russians the opportunity not only to put a "peaceful" solution on the table, to tie the U.S.'s hands with it, and resupply Syria while all of these chemical weapons are being moved.

  • ||

    Thank Christ, the US has Putin to protect us from our leaders.

  • OldMexican||

    Obama Supporters Insist Diplomatic Breakthrough on Syria Was Part of the Plan All Along


    It's right there in hte official texts besides how Obama invented a cure for all cancers and made blind people see by just looking at them.

  • ||

    Obamba said, "I have a cunning plan."

    /in Black Adder Voice.

  • Swiss Servator - Gnome Slave||

    So cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel? So cunning it has its own Chair in Cunning Plans at Oxford?

  • Outlaw||

    Obama's masterful Xanatos Gambit paid off. He truly is a master ruseman.

    http://static2.fjcdn.com/comme.....de9dec.png

  • Dave Krueger||

    David Axelrod asked over Twitter yesterday whether anyone though the breakthrough would’ve been possible absent the threat of military force.

    It doesn't matter because the President doesn't have the power under the Constitution to make war on another country to teach them a lesson. And, yes, bombing a country is an act of war regardless of whether or not they respond or whether any Americans die.

    The same is true with regard to warrantless surveillance of Americans. It doesn't matter how many terrorist attacks it thwarted because it's still unconstitutional (ie: against the law).

    If the U.S. wants the President to be able to start wars on his own or spy on the population at will, there is a really simple solution: amend the Constitution. But, until they do that, they should be forced to abide by it and be appropriately punished when they don't.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Conwut?

  • Dave Krueger||

    No, far more likely is that the president called for a vote in Congress after seeing reticence among his allies and the American people for war, and hoping a vote in Congress, if in the affirmative, would help him shift blame if things go wrong, and that a vote in the negative could be used as an excuse to blame inaction on others. After all, it wasn’t Constitutional concerns that drove the president to Congress, or he wouldn’t have claimed to have the authority to act on his own.

    BINGO!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement