I never thought I would be singing the praises of John Kerry, but in his speech on Friday, he laid out the consequences of not acting in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. “If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity,” Kerry argued, “even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.”
Juxtapose those words with the very next paragraph in the Washington Post report of the speech:
A short time later, in brief remarks before a White House meeting, President Obama said he was considering a “limited, narrow act” against Syria but has not yet made a final decision on a military strike.
“We’re not considering any open-ended commitment,” Obama said. “We are not considering any boots on the ground approach. We have consulted with allies. We have consulted with Congress.” With these words, the president effectively undercut any message his secretary of State was trying to get across. If Kerry had any honor, he would immediately resign from office to make clear how seriously in disagreement he is with his commander-in-chief.
With his own explanation, Barack Obama has let Assad and the world know that what he is considering is nothing but an ineffectual symbolic act that would accomplish nothing and only empower and embolden our worst enemies. As Kerry went on to say, Hezbollah, North Korea, and other powers were testing the resolve of the United States, and would breath a sigh of relief if they found that the United States allowed Assad to act with impunity.
Now that the president has let Assad know that any military strike would not take out his regime, the Syrian dictator can go to sleep easily, knowing that he will awake safe in his presidential palace, with his military and main troops unharmed. If he was for a time worried that Obama would strike their barracks, he has had ample time to send them elsewhere before a strike takes place.
At the same time, David Cameron’s shocking announcement that he would accept the sentiment of his countrymen not to get involved came as a shock to even his opponents. They had expected Cameron to accept only a decision to wait until the reports of the UN inspectors were made available, and then ask UK’s Parliament to join with the United States. Instead, Cameron capitulated entirely to the anti-war opposition. Winston Churchill must be turning over in his grave.
As for the Labor opposition, the speech before Parliament by Ed Miliband, Labor’s leader and son of the late Ralph Miliband, the far-left Marxist professor, displayed the kind of gobbledygook logic one has come to expect from official liberalism. The night before his speech, he sent out the following message to Labor about the crisis in Syria:
Like everyone, I have been horrified by the pictures of men, women and children gasping for breath in Syria. In Parliament just now, I laid out my plan for how Britain should respond.
My position is clear: any action that our country supports must be legal, legitimate and effective. Our country must not make the same mistakes that happened ten years ago.Our desperate desire to help stop this suffering in Syria must not lead us to rushed or wrong decisions.
You can see my full roadmap for action in Syria by watching my speech to Parliament:
If we are to ask yet more of the most exceptional of our country’s men and women — those in our forces — it must be on the basis of a decision that has complete moral authority.
Here are the five steps we must take before coming to such a decision:
1) We must let the UN weapons inspectors do their work and report to the UN Security Council;
2) There must be compelling and internationally-recognised evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks;
3) The UN Security Council should debate and vote on the weapons inspectors’ findings and other evidence. This is the highest forum of the world’s most important multilateral body and we must take it seriously;
4) There should be a clear legal basis in international law for taking military action to protect the Syrian people;
5) Any military action must be time limited, it must have precise and achievable objectives and it must have regard for the consequences of the future impact on the region.
I will use the full force of my position as leader of the Labour Party to ensure that Britain works fully with international institutions when we respond to outrages like those we have seen in Syria.
We must work together for a world in which there is peace and security for all people, and we must also acknowledge that stability will not and cannot be achieved by military means alone.
I will keep you updated on developments from Parliament.
To translate, Miliband says that to have “moral authority” one must depend on the UN Security Council, which of course he well knows — given the vote of Russia on that body — will do nothing except support whatever the Assad regime wants. When he says we must take “seriously” the Security Council’s judgment, he means that no matter what, the UK will do nothing. We already have solid evidence of a major chemical attack, but Miliband prefers to wait for the UN report, although many observers have noted that by the time they entered Syria, much of the evidence has already dissipated. Like any good multilateralist, he also asks that his countrymen wait for the decision of international law, which is yet another bygone conclusion. Finally, he ends with the old liberal belief that “stability cannot be achieved by military means alone.” What he means by that is “let us depend on diplomacy,” which is a joke when one is talking about engaging in it with Bashar al-Assad. Or, assuming he gains the leadership and becomes PM, can we expect Miliband to appear at the side of Assad and Vladimir Putin, proclaiming that we have found “peace in our time”?