So says President Obama in reference to US military action in Syria. Problem is, he has. Two of them, actually. Whether he acknowledges so or not. Both of them are exceedingly poor ones. The first was Obama’s August 2012 ill-conceived bluster about use of chemical weapons being a “red line” for the United States. Tough talk that sounded good, at least to the untrained ear.
When it seemed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on rebel forces, in April of 2013, Obama was caught bluffing like a teenager in a grown-up poker game. So, his second decision was to do nothing after promising “serious consequences” for such use.
Now, the rather predictably beholden news media, led by ABC News, is attempting to tell us that Obama really did not say
“…a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Or, if he did, that he didn’t mean to imply what his words meant.
And now, he is stuck. The Administration has “concluded” that the chemical weapons, likely Sarin (GB), which is not a gas but a liquid nerve agent, were fired by elements of the Assad regime. What evidence? Not very much. None, in fact, that would stand up to the scrutiny of 2004.
“We have concluded,” the president said, that Assad’s regime “in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, there needs to be international consequences.
“…We have looked at all the evidence and we don’t believe the opposition possessed… chemical weapons of that sort,” he continued. “We do not believe given the delivery system using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks.”
Anyone with much intelligence background would acknowledge immediately that such an assertion is utter nonsense. Following a statement from that icon of Foreign Policy, Joe Biden, that there was “no doubt” the attacks came from the Assad regime, the President uses the phrase “we don’t believe” twice in making his assertion.
In truth, neither Biden nor Obama has any way of knowing. The delivery system? Such is easy enough to acquire. In Iraq, the enemy captured or fabricated rail fairings for 122mm rockets, and for the Chinese-made 107mm variety, routinely. The capability most certainly exists in Syria. In fact, there are videos of anti-regime elements firing 122mm rockets from captured BM-21 launchers and improvised systems all over YouTube. Here are two.
So much for the Administration’s assertion on that point.
As for Assad’s chemical stockpiles, my guess is that they have been divided among dozens or even hundreds of caches, with varying levels of security around them, in order to keep Western forces from being able to secure them with special operations forces. Have the “rebels” (which include Al Qaeda in strength, and other radical Islamists) lain their hands on one or more of those stockpiles? There is no way for the US to tell. And it isn’t as if the Assad regime would volunteer the information, even if they knew.
The major point, however, is the question of why the Assad regime would resort to chemical attacks at this juncture. Regime elements are no longer hard-pressed, the Assad regime is winning. What would be the strategic purpose of facing international condemnation and risking the alienation of a very powerful ally (Putin’s Russia) to launch a chemical attack that doesn’t even accomplish a tactical objective? Assad is not a fool. He understands survival.
This is not to say conclusively that the Syrian government did NOT launch such an attack. A miscalculation borne of the weakness and vacillation of the US response the first time, a thumb in the eye of America on the heels of the empty “tough talk” of Obama, may have played into the decision. But I find that eventuality rather unlikely. Could a junior commander have fired the chemical barrage without authorization? Also a possibility, and perhaps more likely. Though I find hard-pressed and increasingly desperate anti-government forces using such weapons with the hope of being saved by outside intervention just as likely. Especially if they are egged on by an Al Qaeda presence that understands the import of the fall of Assad for the advent of yet another Radical Islamist state in a strategic region.
There are no good options, and thanks to Obama’s indiscretions regarding his “red line” comments, there now are not even neutral options, only bad ones. Yet another head-on collision with the real world for the arrogant, naive, incompetent, bumbling, indecisive ideologues in the White House and at Foggy Bottom.
And the newly-minted US Ambassador to the UN? Where was she when the emergency UN session on Syria was held? On vacation in Ireland. She did, however, “tweet” on the subject. Perhaps she even used a frowny-face icon when discussing the chemical attacks. Not yet a month on the job. Gotta wonder, how many Corporals have been recalled or had leave canceled in the last two days because of this crisis? At least Malik was absent in protest, and not in a pub in Belfast.
Our foreign policy is in shambles. Absolute shambles.