On Syria, Get Ready for the Big Stall from the Big O


You've got to assume that President Barack Obama, who has yet to convince his wife, along with about 80 percent of Americans, is looking for a way out of the Syria mess he brought on himself. Remember (as in "never forget") that Obama ad-libbed himself into this situation, with loose and unscripted talk about "red lines" (which, incidentally, Syria apparently crossed in July 2012 – before Obama issued his declaration). For Obama, the best thing you can say about the Syria episode is that it's drawing attention away from all the other issues at which he and the federal government more generally are failing (budget, debt-limit, implementation of Obamacare, immigration, economic recovery…).

So it's kind of fitting that Secretary of State John Kerry's improv act about Syria turning all of its chemical weapons over to an international body may give the president a chance to stall on any sort of military action. He's getting help from two Democratic senators who are pushing for a 45-day cooling-off period to give Bashar al-Assad time to get rid of his chemical weapons. According to one of the idea's sponsors, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), after that, Obama do whatever he wants (including bombing Syria). A month and a half from now there's a good chance that nobody will even remember Syria (think about it, when's the last time the American media or politicians spent time talking about Egypt or Libya or even Afghanistan for that matter?).

Sure, a stall would really put a pin in all those stupid analogies to Munich, Neville Chamberlain, Abyssinia, and more (Sen. Harry Reid, who is more tone deaf than Linda ever was, is even quicker to pull out Nazi death-camp allusions re: Syria than he was to raise the specter of a nation deprived of federally funded cowboy poetry readings during budget talks). And Obama has been clear in his stentorian manner than the whole point of the strike is that it will send a message blah blah blah that nobody can use chemical weapons—so what kind of message does it send to allow one or more chemical weapons attacks? But such credibility gaps are small beer to worry over compared to the wave of revulsion—at home and abroad—if Obama insists on following through with an "unbelievably small" strike (in the words of John Kerry) that is designed to have no actual effect on the Assad regime (according to advisor Susan Rice).

In a way, a huge stall on the matter—covered over in a lot of high-falutin' language about letting diplomacy work and the power of threats backed up by military might!—would be a fitting end to the whole thing. Obama claimed that he had total authority to act and that he must do so to preserve international "norms." And then he did nothing and eventually called for a congressional vote without urging Congress to come back from vacation to vote on war. And he is now ready to dawdle again. He's not the guy you want around if you're choking to death, that's for sure. It's the president as lazy grad student, which also explains his inability to hit budget and Obamacare deadlines with any sense of urgency or real follow-through. There's always time, don't you know, to wrap up incompletes after the semester is officially over.