The Conversation

The Obama war machine is running on fumes

In response to Biden to Meet with House GOP on Syria:

It's weird to see these clowns going through the motions when the entire planet knows war in Syria is off the table, thanks to John Kerry's gaffe and Russia eating Obama's Cheerios.  Sure, it's possible the Russian "peace plan" to confiscate Syrian WMD will fall apart, but I suspect Vladimir Putin will play a tighter game than that.  He'll make the confiscation process look good, and he'll make it last a long time.  And with France now on board at the United Nations, Obama would become a dangerous international outlaw if he started shooting right now.  He won't risk that.  He likes being First Citizen of the World too much.

What's Obama going to say during his speech tonight?  I suspect he'll give in to his meaner political impulses and try to claim the Russian peace deal was his idea all along, or that bone-chilling Obama Administration threats of an "unbelievably small" beat-down are what cowed Assad and brought him to the table.  Not only will ego motivate the President, but he'll also calculate that his dead-end supporters in the media and Democrat electorate will lap it up like cream.  Watching "fact checkers" refuse to hand out Piniocchios to his "red line" walkback crap will have reassured him that his faithful media worshipers are still willing to line up in the pews, even if some of them are no longer wearing their Sunday best, and they're starting to grumble about wanting some new material in the hymn books.

So Obama will make a move to hang on to domestic political influence, at a catastrophic cost to American credibility and prestige.  The last-ditch public push for war involved claims that it was necessary to protect American credibility, but that will go out the window, because the even laster-ditch behind-closed-doors effort has involved telling congressional Democrats that Obama's presidency is on the line if something doesn't go kaboom in Syria pronto.  And according to the New York Times, unsympathetic Democrats were not swayed by this argument!

The problem is that Obama's desperate efforts to shore up domestic support made an immediate full stop impossible for his war machine.  There was too much talk about Assad being the new Hitler, too much insistence that bombing Syria was not just a proposal, but an imperative.  This was coupled with a lingering hangover from the anti-war rhetoric that Obama, Kerry, et al used to spout, and a real sense of war weariness on the part of the American public... which Team Obama both over- and under-estimated.  

They overestimated it because they couldn't bring themselves to make a powerful case for removing Assad, which would have been more logically consistent with their "new Hitler" rhetoric.  But they also underestimated it, because they figured everyone would be cool with a hip liberal President shooting off a couple of missiles and calling it a day.  They underestimated our fears of quagmire and mission creep, and our willingness to exercise pointless deadly force - with the inevitable risk of collateral damage - in a part of the world where every action produces an excessive and opposite reaction.

And Obama dramatically overestimated his ability to deflect criticism with the usual claims of racism, Republican intransigence, it's all Bush's fault, etc. etc. ad nauseum.  He ran a first-term playbook in a second term, and got sacked.


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