On Monday, the Obama administration, overcome by its own frantic confusion over a situation of its own making in Syria, fainted into the arms of Russian President Vladimir Putin – and, in the process, appeased the Syrian regime after Bashar al-Assad gassed some 1,429 people in Damascus last month.
In a London news conference on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Assad could avoid war by “turn[ing] over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting.” The Russian regime immediately responded to Kerry’s off-the-cuff remark – his second gaffe of the day, after he suggested an “unbelievably small” action against Syria as a deterrent — by suggesting that Syria turn over his chemical weapons to international control. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, “We are calling on the Syrian authorities [to] not only agree on putting chemical weapons storages under international control but also for its further destruction and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons…We have passed our offer to [Syrian Foreign Minister] Walid al-Moualem and hope to receive a fast and positive answer.” Moualem immediately responded that Syria “welcomes Russia’s initiative, based on the Syrian government’s care about the lives of our people and security of our country.”
President Obama desperately grasped the olive branch, stating, “You have to take it with a grain of salt, initially,” then adding, “We’re going to run this to ground. We’re going to make sure that we see how serious these proposals are.” The administration immediately claimed credit for this supposed diplomatic breakthrough, claiming that its threats had obviously been credible.
Thus, the Russians and Syrians have bartered a way out of Assad’s current predicament. Assad remains in power. His regime remains intact. He called the American bluff and won, and will be emboldened, as will his handlers in Tehran. The al-Qaeda opposition remains intact, too, perhaps slightly emboldened by Obama’s bluster. Putin seizes global leadership on foreign policy. Meanwhile, Obama claims victory, and his media lackeys genuflect before his brilliance.
This is a far cry from just last week, when the Obama administration declared Assad the new Hitler, suggested that the UN was irrelevant to action in Syria, and demanded immediate response to human rights violations in Damascus. “Bashar Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war,” Kerry explained just nine days ago. Even today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked the Holocaust as a rationale for military action in Syria.
Six days ago, Kerry stated that if Congress did not authorize use of force in Syria, the United States would face a “Munich moment,” referencing British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous appeasement of Adolf Hitler after Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. Chamberlain declared “peace in our time.” Hitler, emboldened, launched World War II.
A mere five days ago, the Obama administration suggested that any UN investigation into the Syrian chemical attack was irrelevant. “The UN investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons,” Kerry said. “By the definition of their own mandate, the UN can’t tell us anything that we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know.”
Now, however, Assad is reasonable, the UN is hunky dory, and Harry Reid has cancelled a planned Senate vote on action in Syria. The Obama administration’s diplomatic genius has somehow emerged victorious. All America left behind was its credibility and any semblance of coherent foreign policy.
Thanks to President Obama’s statements in August 2012 regarding a Syrian “red line” on chemical weapons use in Syria, the United States was faced with three choices in Syria: depose Assad; do nothing in order to prevent al Qaeda from taking over the country (likely the best option); or, as Kerry advocated, push for an “unbelievably small” action in order to reinforce America’s credibility. The third option was the worst. But in a truly awe-inspiring display of his foreign policy genius, President Obama has found a fourth option: appeasement, complete with international weapons inspections it rejected just a week ago. Welcome to Barack Obama’s Munich.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).