The controversy over whether the U.S. should intervene militarily in Syria has become more about proving manhood than about chemical weapons, al-Qaeda, or geopolitics. Each side appears to be more intent on proving that they’re men than in doing the right thing by Syria, or anyone else, for that matter.
First and foremost is Barack Obama, whom Pamela Geller has indelibly dubbed the “helmeted bike rider.” His international coalition against Syria did not materialize; even the British refused to go along, for the first time in anyone’s memory. The French, who alone had pledged to go along, are now hesitating. And for good reason: Obama still has not been able to provide convincing proof that Assad launched the chemical weapons that made him want to attack Syria in the first place.
His supporters, meanwhile, appear increasingly ridiculous. His secretary of State insists that the Syrian rebels are mostly secular, contradicting intelligence reports from both the U.S. and Europe. His former opponent and now stalwart servant on the other side of the aisle, John McCain, has just as risibly promised that the Syrian rebels, whom even the New York Times has acknowledged are dominated by al-Qaeda, are “moderates.”
Obama has even admitted that “we may not be directly imminently threatened by what’s taking place” in Syria. May not be? There is no conceivable calculus by which we are directly imminently threatened by what’s taking place in Syria, but McCain’s sidekick, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, did his level best to come up with something, hysterically claiming that if the U.S. didn’t attack Syria, Iran might nuke Charleston Harbor.
The hysteria was a sign of desperation. Exposed, abandoned, and bereft of a case, Obama should have backed down. But he couldn’t, because it would have been a sign of weakness. Obama’s weakness has already been abundantly demonstrated, but seldom this nakedly and pointedly, and so he charged ahead, trying and failing to drum up support for his Syrian misadventure at the G-20 summit. The helmeted bike rider had to prove that he was a real man, a strong man, even if it meant any number of dead Syrians, and the U.S. allying with al-Qaeda.
In light of all that, it was hard to argue with Vladimir Putin’s charge that “what Congress and the U.S. Senate are doing in essence is legitimizing aggression.” Aggression is precisely the response of an aggrieved and insecure man to a challenge to his manhood.