Two days ago President Obama claimed “I didn’t set a red line.”
When word that Syria was mixing chemical weapons precursors broke last December, Secretary Clinton was in Prague. She was asked by a New York Times reporter about the President’s red line on Syria and gave the following response [Emphasis added]
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michael, those are a lot of
questions, but they’re important questions and ones that are very much
in on the minds of our Administration and like minded countries around
the world, including the Czech Republic. Because as I alluded to
earlier, the Czech Republic is widely viewed as having some of the most
extensive expertise and experience with chemical, biological,
radiological, and nuclear matters. And they have already been consulting
about what can be and should be done, both at this time and post the
inevitable fall of the Assad regime.
We have made our views very clear. This is a red line for the United
States. I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in
the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to
using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say,
we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to
So we once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that
their behavior is reprehensible. Their actions against their own people
have been tragic. But there is no doubt that there is a line between
even the horrors that they have already inflicted on the Syrian people
and moving to what would be an internationally condemned step of
utilizing their chemical weapons…
The State Department posted video of Clinton’s statement on Syria but it picks up just after her mention of a “red line for the United States.”
President Obama is clearly trying to back away from his own policy, but he simply cannot claim he was making a generic statement about world norms when his own Secretary of State was referring to “a red line for the United States.” And note that Clinton also said “we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to
occur.” She’s not saying the world will respond. Our Secretary of State said “we” would respond.
And the President was saying the same thing at the time, i.e. if CW were used US military action would follow. This was clearly a US policy, not a reference to international norms.
It’s a shame that some in the media seem willing to go along with the President moving the goal posts even when they clearly understand that is what is happening. Fortunately not everyone is falling for it.
Obama is correct to argue that the international community has long
drawn a “red line” condemning the use of chemical weapons, but his point
blurs the fact that his “red line” comment in August 2012 was made in
the context of what it might take for the U.S. to get involved
militarily in Syria. While Obama may have had some justification for
drawing that line based on international conventions, the decision to
tie U.S. military involvement to Assad using chemical weapons was
Obama’s red line.
The President set a red line for this country. His claim to the contrary two days ago is simply false.