With such a positive development, why is Obama getting bashed over Syria?

REUTERS/Evan Vucci/POOL
President Barack Obama addressing the nation about the situation in Syria from the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

To my view, the weekend’s development on Syria were overwhelmingly positive.

1.) The United States is not going to bomb Syria and, therefore, cross the line into direct participation in the civil war. 2.) A deal exists that, if fulfilled, will lead to the destruction of Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons. 3.) The United Nations has made itself useful. 4.) The United States and Russia found a way to cooperate to bring about these positive results. 5.) Even if the chemical disarmament of Syria is not completed, Assad is far, far less likely than heretofore to continue gassing civilians.

I still have big problems with President Obama’s original decision that the United States needed to bomb Syria. And I don’t for a second believe that Obama had anything like this in mind when he announced that decision. But, to me, all five of those developments in the paragraph above are overwhelmingly positive. Which of them are not?

Yet, over the weekend, Obama is being almost universally pilloried mostly on the same kinds of hyper-politicized analysis that I mentioned a few posts back when I urged caution about the mainstream media narrative.

Obama waffled. Obama blinked. Obama is allowing Putin to look good. Obama sent a signal of wavering weakness to various other world leaders, including allies (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for example, with his concern about Iran’s nuclear program) who are counting on U.S. bombs and missiles on other matters. Obama showed fecklessness and his approval ratings are coming down, all of which will embolden certain Republican extremists who plan to threaten a government shutdown or a debt crisis in hopes of defunding Obamacare. Seriously, should Obama have launched a lethal attack on Syrians in order to get Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling?

The group that has a perhaps logical reason to be upset about the decision to not bomb Syria is the John McCain faction that wants the United States to adopt the goal of overthrowing Assad. But for this group, the chemical weapons issues is only the latest talking point in favor of what is politely referred to as “regime change.”

I hope Syria someday gets a better government. I don’t accept that the United States military should or must overthrow all dictators, and I don’t think the track record of “regime change” operations is all that encouraging. But at least the would-be regime changers are fairly honest about their goal.

Yes, it’s true, as Nick Hayes hilariously details elsewhere on this site, the servile elements of the Russian media are touting Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize. I doubt he deserves one or will receive one. But if he does, I, for one, will not be thinking: Darn, I wish the U.S. military had bombed Syria so this tragic Putin prize could have been averted.

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Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2013 - 11:17 am.

    Yeah, nice going, Obama.

    Putin so clearly outweighs our President in http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&, that the entire political class in the U.S. howled as though they’d just swallowed a 12 ounce glass of Tabasco sauce, when in fact they had merely imbibed some ordinary common sense and good judgement.

    But if you’re blithering in the puerile confusion and delusion of a failing U.S. foreign policy, ordinary common sense and good judgement hurts – it STINGS – like alcohol doused on a wound. Our leaders simply can’t take it.

    Examine the substance of that piece.

    Most Americans who read his op-ed piece for its meaning will find it eminently reasonable. Where’s the flaw in its observations ? Is it really so painful to experience a calm, rational third party observation of our policies – in particular, that part about the “dangerous” nature of American exceptionalism ? Or should we refuse to look it in the eye because it injures our pride or runs counter to the propaganda river ?

    Yes, the developments are positive, but they were virtually forced on the President. Should we give him a pat on the back for NOT launching another American campaign of killing and destruction ?

    Sure, nice going. This strange praise, “Thanks for not starting another war.” could only take place in America.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/16/2013 - 03:30 pm.

      Is the potential removal of chemical weapons from the Syrian arsenal a positive? I certainly think it is a positive as compared to the quasi-neutral of “not starting a war”.

      And the Putin piece was a substantial piece of hypocrisy that artfully tilts the field to the Russian world-view.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2013/09/russia_s_role_in_syria_putin_s_new_york_times_op_ed_is_all_hypocrisy_and.single.html

      http://www.christianpost.com/news/7-hypocritical-false-and-misleading-statements-in-vladamir-putins-nyt-op-ed-104440/

      People who see Putin as Mr. Reasonable really need to read more or current events.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2013 - 06:06 pm.

        Russian hypocrises do not elevate Obama’s failures to successes

        As I’ve said above, “Yes, the developments are positive,”. Yet they are not to the credit of the President, nor to the credit of U.S. foreign policy. What else could they do but go along with a peace initiative supported by nearly everyone in the world, once Kerry had stuck his foot in his mouth ?

        Your links give some arguments that are pretty fair, but others rather tortuous, that Putin is hypocritical. I guess one must be a SAINT to criticize the United States, eh ? Or better put, we can ignore any criticism not delivered by a saint, regardless of its substance. How about weighing the message, rather than the delivery boy ? I find these ad hominem arguments pure dissemblance, a means of avoiding the obvious.

        But perhaps the most significant hypocrises of both Russia AND the United States is that NEITHER has fully complied with the Chemical Weapons treaty they now trumpet as the mark of integrity.

        Both countries still carry stockpiles which they claim they just can’t quite get to destroying, not yet anyway. The U.S., after 2 extensions for more time, now says it will take until the year 2021 to comply. We’re exceptional. I guess the Russians are, too.

        Oops ! I almost forgot Israel, who also stockpiles chemical weapons. They’re exceptional, too.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/17/2013 - 07:50 am.

          One need not be a saint, but Putin?

          Really, Putin?

          • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/17/2013 - 09:11 am.

            No, Putin is unimportant – rather, what’s important…

            …is the CONTENT of the NY Times op-ed, which, it seems, must make you extremely uncomfortable to acknowledge, else why would you steer away from it repeatedly ?

            It’s the message, not the messenger, that is critical for Americans to hear. Trust me, it will not hurt you – it might even help.

            Why would it be so painful to examine the following (excerpts from the piece) ?

            “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

            “…force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.”

            “…I would rather disagree with a case he (Obama) made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

            There is no sense in taking the view that these observations are valid – but only if proclaimed by the RIGHT PERSON !!

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/17/2013 - 09:23 am.

              Points

              taken

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/17/2013 - 12:44 pm.

              A broken clock is right twice a day.

              A lying clock is right only when it wants to be. Askin why it seems to be right is only prudent.

              The hypocrisy meter is officially shattered with the Putin’s comment.

              As the leading purveyor of weapons and chemical weapons to the Syrian government, and a leading opponent of democratic reforms, Putin’s actions led exactly to this crisis, and with the decades old bloodbath in Chechnya and Georgia again fresh on his hands and the attempts to rebuild the old Soviet empire well underway, all I can do is laugh.

              Sure he has points, but he is a lying bastard that will cut your heart out in an instant if it benefited him or Russia. However, more to the point, the thought behind each one of those quotes have been uttered in one form or another by Obama in r, so these are not exactly new and brilliant thoughts by genius-Nobel-candidate Putin that will enlighten Obama into a new way to see the world.

              So is Obama an ultra-nationalist war-monger?

              Or is he an inept fool being swept in another mideast war?

              Can’t have both.

              • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/17/2013 - 02:34 pm.

                The lying bastards of this world…

                …are sometimes right in spite of their shortcomings, which do not recommend them in a general case.

                I take utmost exception to the idea that Obama has uttered the quotes above in any form at all. When has he ever admitted…

                …military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States ?

                …Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force ?

                …(U.S.) force has proved ineffective and pointless. ?

                …an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes ?

                …It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional ?

                I don’t think Obama is an ultra-nationalist war-monger nor an inept fool, two straw men. But regarding your idea that we can’t have both – need I remind you of this administration’s predecessor ?

                And what do you make of a foreign policy that only days ago favored regime change in Syria, and NOW, if the diplomatic effort succeeds, will REQUIRE that regime to continue to safely execute the chemical weapon handoff to international control ? See any inconsistencies there ?

                I’ve made my point, but I fear it has only bounced off you.

                • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/17/2013 - 07:43 pm.

                  Regime change was never the policy of Obama–perhaps you are thinking of McCain.

                  Instead, Obama was proposing a ridiculously magical strike that would deter further chemical weapon use, but not dangerously destroy chemical weapons with bombs, not push him into using them again, not hurt civilians, specifically not endanger Assad’s position, specifically not topple Assad’s government, and leave the Syrian military on top.

                  But in a way that would make Assad sorry for using chemical weapons.

                  And that, exactly, was what the proposed policy was. No more and no less.

                  If the handoff succeeds, I would definitely say that this result is essentially the same–Assad will not use chemical weapons again.

                  And your problem with that, is…what???

                  • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/17/2013 - 09:52 pm.

                    No, not McCain – Obama.

                    Obama dithers and dithers on what his policy toward Syria truly is – and this leads some to profound confusion.

                    “We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.” ….“In a briefing for reporters, three senior administration officials defended the slow and deliberate pace of Obama’s decision to finally call for Assad to go,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/obama-assad_n_930229.html

                    May 16 Referring to his Turkish counterpart, “We both agree that Assad needs to go.” http://live.wsj.com/video/obama-and-erdogan-syria-assad-must-go/A714C6EE-C4BA-4FCF-B9BF-57567F1026B6.html#!A598D541-34BE-4780-83C8-5FBA5BE07AF9

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/18/2013 - 07:54 am.

                      As you may recall, this discussion (and column) is based on the substitution of the handover of chemical weapons as opposed to a military strike to punish the use of the chemical weapons.

                      The proposed strike was NOT to remove or cripple Assad’s ability to fight a conventional civil war.

                      As for dithering–yes, BUT there are no good options in the wake of experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. There is no magic wall surrounding Syria that prevents the same hostile groups of those conflicts from entering Syria to further their goals with our help.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/17/2013 - 12:56 pm.

              One consistent line of attack on Obama has been that he does not regard America as being exceptional enough.

              Thanks to Mr. Putin, now we really know Obama is an exceptionalist.

              One line of attack on Obama is that he relies on international cooperation too much.

              Thanks to Mr. Putin, now we really know he is a unilateralist

              One line of attack on Mr. Obama is that he is weak in the use of military force.

              Thanks to Mr. Putin, now we really know he is a war-monger

              One line of attack on Obama has been that he is too eager to withdraw from Mideast wars.

              Thanks to Mr. Putin, now we really know he wants more Mideast blood.

              Be sure to pass that on to the Republican party, will ya? Maybe they’ll like him now.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2013 - 05:33 pm.

      Putin

      is the dictator of a second rate power trying to act like it’s still a first rate power.
      He has a big military, but in economic terms, which is what really counts today, he’s second to China. When his oil and gas runs out he’ll drop down to the third tier, and won’t be able to afford his military.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/16/2013 - 12:21 pm.

    The proposal that is being pursued contains a number of “win/wins” and “no-loss/no-losses”. Because the US really didn’t want to go to war with Syria. Because Russia does not want to go to war over some tin-pot dictator that really doesn’t add much to their alliance. Because Syria really couldn’t battle the US. Because it is good to remove chemical weapons wherever possible. Because it strengthens international systems. That’s what good diplomacy is–whether one stumbles into it or not. And, coincidently, good internal politics in the US for the Obama administration.

    And that is where the criticism comes in.

  3. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 09/16/2013 - 01:35 pm.

    It’s a win-win-win-win

    Everyone gets what they want. The Syrians get to go back to killing each other, Obama gets to go back to playing golf, Putin gets to play “king of the world,” and the rest of us get to avoid WWIII.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/16/2013 - 02:46 pm.

      Everyone but you, it seems

      And Republicans get to go back to threatening to destroy the global economy because they lost an election.

      What did you want to see happen? Please avoid vague terms like “effective response.” Tell us what that would have entailed.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2013 - 05:35 pm.

        What?

        A Republican actually make a positive statement about something?
        It’s much easier to bleat about impeaching Obama because, well because he’s Obama.

  4. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 09/16/2013 - 02:18 pm.

    You really ask why?

    The GOP called for Congressional approval of any Syria war plans. President Obama gave it to them, causing endless backtracking and confusion as the hawks backpedaled furiously so as not to agree with anything the President does. Then a nonviolent solution was proposed, which the President thought was a good idea, causing warmonger heads to explode and positions to be hastily re-evaluated yet again. All the screaming is coming from people who will scream and rend their garments no matter what the President does or proposes, and by this time that’s become background noise.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/16/2013 - 03:07 pm.

    Assad crossed Obama’s “red line”

    So why isn’t Assad being punished? It’s like asking the bank robber to return the money and all will be forgiven. By letting Assad stay in power after crossing Obama’s “red line,” Obama look’s like an impotent fool. That’s why he’s being ridiculed by thinking people.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/16/2013 - 04:22 pm.

      What “thinking people?”

      Regime change was never the goal of the “red line.” The reference was to a line that would prompt some US intervention. The threat of intervention was, in all likelihood, a factor leading to the movement to a diplomatic settlement.

      An “impotent fool” would be a President who continued to treat a dictator who used chemical weapons as a valued ally. The only “thinking people” who are ridiculing the President are those who would ridicule him no matter what he did. I don’t think he’s worried about their ill-formed opinions too much.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/16/2013 - 06:31 pm.

        There was no threat of intervention

        Due to his tactical blunder of taking the decision to congress, he was soon to be embarrassed further by having his request to use force denied.

        And there still is no credible threat of force to this day for the same reason. And everybody knows it.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/17/2013 - 09:24 am.

          More Neo Con wisdom

          Obeying the Constitution is a blunder.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/17/2013 - 09:35 am.

          No threat of intervention?

          Really? Punitive air strikes are not intervention? They aren’t an invitation to a sleep-over.

          The “tactical blunder” to which you refer is an acknowledgement of Congress’s constitutional authority regarding war making. Again, I’m not sure what you would call air and missile strikes, but in my neighborhood, they’re considered war.

          “And there still is no credible threat of force to this day for the same reason.” You don’t think naval vessels stationed offshore are credible? I never served myself, but I still hold the US Navy in higher regard than that.
          “And everybody knows it.” That’s a punch line, not an argument.

      • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 09/16/2013 - 10:54 pm.

        Just say Reagan and Saddam

        “An “impotent fool” would be a President who continued to treat a dictator who used chemical weapons as a valued ally.”

        Hopefully we know who you mean.

    • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 09/16/2013 - 10:49 pm.

      He’s losing his chemical weapons

      And the advantage they gave him. You have a funky definition of not punished. Oh right, whatever Obama does, you object.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/16/2013 - 03:26 pm.

    Nicely done

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Eric from top to bottom in this piece. Sometimes, the stars, or karma, or cosmic forces beyond our control, just happen to accidentally produce a result that’s essentially a good thing for all concerned. Not a good thing for those Syrians who’ve been gassed, of course, but our duty is really to focus our concern on the living, and the diplomatic agreement is certainly a good thing for all those reasons Eric and some of the above commentators have listed. Mr. Assad will not always be with us, and like many others, my hope is that his replacement will provide the long-suffering Syrian people with a much better government. Until that happens, I like what the agreement calls for, and as Ms. Kohls suggests, we get to avoid World War III.

    Also nicely done, Steve Hoffman’s response.

  7. Submitted by tom jones on 09/16/2013 - 04:49 pm.

    Warmonger John McCain is instigating trouble for Obama, because of his dislike, bitterness and jealousy towards Obama.

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2013 - 05:38 pm.

    I haven’t noticed

    any chemical weapons used since Obama threatened an attack.
    That was the point.
    In fact (though it’s hard to get specifics) the overall level of fighting seems down.
    I suspect that behind Putin’s woofing he’s advised Assad to back off if he wants to stay in power. If Putin hasn’t, the Syrian military may have.

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