We can, at least, offer Secretary Kerry a bit of respect for showing up to discuss the President’s latest reversal on Syria. In the interim, it is not hard to imagine that Secretary Kerry had an; “I can’t believe what that SOB did to me” moment. Secretary Kerry is nothing if not a good political soldier, as he was today.
However, to fully absorb the impact of how vacuous the President’s policy is, we must return to the Secretary’s Friday statement as the representation of that policy.
The Secretary exposed the fact that the U.S. intelligence community had strong indications of an impending chemical attack three days before the event. The quotation follows; Mr. Kerry, “We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area, making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions.”
No pressure we are aware of was brought to bear to forestall the attack, by exposing what we knew on the world stage. It could not have been a case of protecting ‘sources and methods’ or this part of the statement would have never passed the review process typical of declarative public statements by a senior administration official.
Reaction to this statement from the Syrian opposition was dramatic wondering, in essence, what the hell the U.S. was thinking. Portions of the opposition now feel as much a victim of U.S. policy, or lack thereof, as they are of Assad. One has to wonder, if the indications of an impending attack were made public would the attack have taken place?
The Secretary spoke of the President’s change of mind regarding going to Congress as a demonstration of faith in our democratic system, but that epiphany of faith only occurred to the President after sending Secretary Kerry out to make the case for action. The President long contended that such faith in the democratic system as represented by Congressional approval was unnecessary and subservient to his role as Commander in Chief.
The President has presented retribution against Syria as a moral imperative. If it is, indeed, a moral imperative it should not be subject to the winds of political fortune. If morality prevails there is the expectation that morality is associated with courage of conviction, we do not see evidence of that conviction here. Perhaps the true conviction is found in an attempt to hang the issue on Congress so that the President can wash his hands and move on.
Secretary Kerry, as is his wont, failed to include a few factual representations, opting for maximum melodrama. He reviewed a long list of those who rightly, condemned the gas attack. He specifically mentioned the Organization of the Islamic Congress and the Arab League as having joined the Greek chorus of condemnation. He failed to mention that those two organizations have been clear in their opposition to American military action in Syria. Of the others mentioned not a single one, with the exception of France, is prepared to support an American action. When foreign leaders say ‘we’, what they really mean is, you! With a singular exception, no foreign leader or organization is willing to associate themselves with Obama’s strategy. The lack of confidence is comprehensively demonstrated by the British refusal to support the President or their Prime Minister.
The Secretary, correctly, pointed out that the U.N. Security Council will block a resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria, clearly intimating that the U.N. piece of the puzzle will not be considered an important factor in the administration’s efforts. Faith and reliance on the U.N., a hallmark of the Obama administration, has met the reality of just how feckless and useless that organization has become.
The Secretary also stated; “We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened.” The Secretary told us that the ‘Red Line’ has been crossed many times and we knew it. Having known it, having done nothing about it, without doubt, emboldened the Syrian regime.
While I do not support a Syrian incursion, I do support strong, clear American policy that represents our interests. Vacillation is dangerous. The message here is clear, American condemnation bears no cost, the possibility of broad coalitions is out of the question and that if you just wait it out, the President will change his mind.