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Works and Days

Syria in the Age of Myth

September 15th, 2013 - 11:28 pm

Myth I. Conservatives opposed to bombing Syria are isolationists.

Hardly. It would be better to call conservative skepticism a new Jacksonianism that is not wedded to any Pavlovian support for intervention or particular political party.

Instead, Jacksonians wish to husband U.S. power and prestige. Only that way can we ensure that we have both when existential crises loom—and many are now on the horizon.

The more prudent course is to weigh each intervention in terms of whether it serves long-term U.S. strategic interests. And ask if it can it do more good than harm to those beneath the bombs and at a cost commensurate with the results. Does it enjoy at least 50% support from the Congress and people? Have the president and his team worked hard to explain the rationale, methodology, and desired objectives to both allies abroad and Americans at home?

All that might sound like a lot of ifs—suggesting thereby an impossible bar for success abroad. But those prerequisites are neither too cumbersome nor guarantees of anything certain. After all, sloppy thinking occasionally can still result in won wars, while professional preparation can sometimes fail—given that nothing is certain in war.

Instead, such considerations offer a better chance of success when the bombs start falling. And they reflect an administration that takes military force seriously.

The present one does not. It still cannot explain why a “shot across the bow” and an “unbelievably small” bombing campaign are not “pinpricks.”  (Who wants to be the first or last pilot to die to prove that his mission was not just a pinprick, but instead achieved only unbelievably small damage?)

Why is Congress initially to be bypassed, then consulted, then to be bypassed if not on board, then to be postponed if believed not on board, and now to be forgotten? Is it really isolationist to doubt the wisdom and efficacy of bombing Assad when we were told it was to: a) help the rebels, b) destroy WMD, c) punish Assad for using WMD, d) warn others not to use WMD, e) remove him, f) weaken him, g) restore U.S. credibility, h) restore mostly Barack Obama’s lost credibility, i) thwart Russia, j) show Iran, k) welcome in Russia, l) ignore Iran, m) create stability after Assad’s departure, n) not  get involved after Assad’s departure, o) sort out good rebels from bad ones, etc.?

Weakening America and making Syria worse is not a proof of bipartisan interventionist support for the necessary postwar global system.

Myth II. John Kerry is far worse than Hillary Clinton at secretary of State.

True, poor Kerry is played hourly by the Russians and Syrians. He seeks to lecture and pontificate, not persuade and inspire. He ends up doing neither well. The secretary freelances into embarrassment. At times Kerry warns of imminent bombing; at times he champions sober negotiation; at times both and again neither. He talks ponderously and long. Even the Russians cannot stand the pomposity and cry no mas.

Kerry tries to resonate Obama’s orders. But he cannot—both because presidential directives, to the extent that there are any, are incoherent and unserious, and because, like Obama, Kerry made his career damning just the sort of unilateral preemptory military action—without allies, the UN, public support, or an authorization from Congress—that he is now demagoguing for. Was Kerry for Assad before being against him? Is Assad about like Genghis Khan—or is he now Hitler?—or worse, or maybe far worse? Are Assad’s soldiers lopping limbs and burning villages as Americans supposedly did in Vietnam? Or are some of the rebels the real cannibals and executioners of prisoners?

Yet all that said, Kerry inherited and made worse this mess, but did not create it. It was Hillary Clinton, not Kerry or even Obama, who first issued empty red lines that she either had no intention of enforcing or should have known that Obama had no desire to honor.

It was Clinton who grandly announced to the world that Kerry and other senators were right in declaring Assad a “reformer” and a “moderate.” It was Hillary who oversaw, along with Samantha Power and Susan Rice, the debacle in Libya. It was Hillary who explained why Gaddafi —the clever monster in rehabilitation doing all that he could do to massage Western oil-hungry and petro-dollar-grabbing elites—had to go, but why the suddenly now satanic Assad should be left alone to reform.

It was Hillary who was the architect of “lead from behind,” which proved nothing. Hillary thundered callously “what difference does it make?” over the four dead in Benghazi. Her State Department both stonewalled the Benghazi inquiry and, before the attack, refused to consider requests for more security.

It was Hillary who chortled in crude fashion “we came, we saw, Gaddafi died,” and in cruder fashion lied to the families of the dead that a right-wing video, not Islamist militias attacking a poorly defended consulate engaged in secretive arms smuggling, had led to the deaths of their sons.  And, yes, it was Hillary who jumped ship to avoid the consequences of her own disastrous tenure, while she hit the lecture circuit to cash in and prep for her 2016 presidential run.

Kerry is incompetently cleaning up the wreckage of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous tenure.

Myth III. America is now in decline after being humiliated in Syria.

Syria was a diplomatic disaster and emblematic of the larger Obama foreign policy catastrophe.

But America will survive it, and it will become a textbook example of what not to do, analogous to Kennedy’s disastrous Vienna summit with Khrushchev, or the sad decision to forfeit a won Vietnam to the communists in 1974-5, or Jimmy Carter’s annus terribilis of 1980. Yet Syria is not an historic date marking America’s descent into permanent decline.

America’s longer-term, post-Obama indicators are in our favor. We lead the world in innovation. Immigrants still seek the U.S. We will be more energy secure than at any time since the 1930s. Our deficits are sinking after sequestration, with fossil fuel expansion and cheaper energy.

Our top universities have never more dominated world-wide rankings.  Obama’s neo-socialism is waning; even he postpones elements of an unpopular Obamacare.

Even a slashed military is still far stronger than the next dozen militaries combined. One American worker, amid economic doldrums, still produces almost three times the goods and services of three Chinese workers. And so on.

Russia has brilliantly outclassed Obama. Yet Obama is not America and Putin is not Russia. The latter’s country is shrinking, increasingly unhealthy, a kleptocracy dependent solely on gas and oil revenues in the midst of an oil and gas boom elsewhere. A weak Obama and strong Putin do not translate into a strong Russia and a weak America. Obamitis will pass; the Russian malady will not be alleviated by Putin’s KGB cunning.

We will survive Obama, if barely, but then also flourish—if only by the wisdom of reacting to and doing the opposite of what the Obama era has wrought.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
" Also, the kinds of people that have an emotional stake in Obama are generally far less inclined to show up for the Midterms anyway."

Seriously, do they really have to "show up" to vote? Or do they even have to be alive to vote? We are now, after all, one big Chicago as relates to voting.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"He is also a genius at diverting attention through another domestic war or foreign crisis"

There is nothing genius about obama's diversions. They are blatantly obvious, predictable, and tiresome, and they only work on the weak minded.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"He is also a genius..."

A diabolical one, but a genius nonetheless.

If you recall Sun Tsu's admonition to understand your enemies (and make no mistake whatsoever: Barack Obama is an enemy of our Republic) better than you understand yourself, you must recognize that he is not a stupid man - he has convinced half of the voting populace that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Except that Christ's second coming will not be sullied by the support of killing infants in the abortionist's back room, or the abject hatred of those with whom he does not agree, or a hundred other demonstrations of his contempt for America and Americans.

You see, Barack Obama is not one of "us". While he is indisputably a citizen of the United States, so very much of his upbringing was outside of the United States, as in Indonesia, and outside the experience of the contiguous states, as in Hawaii, that he does not have the common experience of the average American.

One wonders how differently he would have spoken to Joe the Plumber if Barack Obama, Sr. were himself a plumber, or entrepreneur rather than a polygamous drunkard. Rather, he gave an answer that exposed his commonality with his father - that of socialism.

Unfortunately, the other 50% of America is going to have to be subjected to great privation in order to awaken them to the folly of supporting this Republic-hating Marxist. Trouble is that the other 50% of us that would rather gouge our eyes out than vote for Obama are going to have to endure it as well.

In political terms, Barack Obama is the anti-Madison, the man who came to take our Constitution away from us.

In Biblical terms, Barack Obama stepped into this world from the flaming maw of Hell itself.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (76)
All Comments   (76)
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bigger diggler, Let me simplify for you. Islam is filth. 'nuf said.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm just amazed that folks find Assad's gassing of terrorists so news and comment-worthy. In fact, anyone with a nodding acquaintance with history could not think 9-11 was newsworthy. Both 9-11 and Assad's gas attack are mere pikers among the most hideous muslim massacres (even Saddam managed to gas 5,000 kurds in one day, which surpasses both the slaughter of 9-11 and Boy Assad's gaseous attack put together).

Simply put, Islam is a filthy blood-drenched sewer cult of mass murder and has been so for thousands of years. Genocide is Islam's middle name. The gassing of Al Quaeda terrorists, while superficially impolite in white wine circles in Grenwich village, ranks about 200th in history's most satanic outrages committed by this death cult.
Sorry, but taking no action and not intervening in this mess was the right thing to do. What's not to like about a monster like Assad murdering terrorists and the sea they swim in?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The real picture seems somewhat cloudier. The people returned Obama, and not particularly because of his brilliant sophistry and elegantly sophisticated advisers. They seemed to do so because of the 47% factor and because the MSM and educational system - and their own lack of understanding of civics - brought them to Obama. Though the US is indeed a remarkable country with still many many productive and wise people residing in it, the voting population is reliably in the pockets of Democrats and RINO straddlers. Obama didn't get lots of votes? He's not really popular in the larger population? Okay, and in 1992 Yitzhak Rabin returned to power on 42% of the vote and proceeded to systematically wreck Israeli security prospects via Oslo. This damage is not yet undone, and may never be. The truth (as I see it) is that, productive and fun as though many Americans still are, the next Prez will likely be called Hillary or Jeb.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's good to hear optimism. Often we don't. At times VDH isn't as optimistic. But he is today and it feels good.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Valiant effort at balance.

Doesn't work, because the people "in charge" are beyond accepted standards of same.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama has pushed the pendulum so far to the left that it may take a vicious swing the right when he lets go. That may not be all bad but some of it could be. I'm hoping for some real common sense from our leaders. I know! That's hopeless. Conservatives need to push the neocons & RINO's out of the Republican party IMHO or else just start another legitimate political party.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You mean get rid on non-isolationists like Ronald Reagan? How about getting rid of the Paulites who handed the election to Obama by staying home on election day.

The last time we ran a real Conservative, we won.
The last time we ran a libertarian (Goldwater) we had our heads handed to us.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope that I don't sound like a sycophant, but Dr. Hanson has demonstrated a better grasp of long term strategy in one article than the all of Obama's cabinet members have in 5 years. Amazing.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You don't sound like a sycophant and I also agree with Dr. Hanson's whole article. He is correct. The Obama administration will figure out some "war on whatever" in this country to try and deflect attention to his failings.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Our deficits are sinking after sequestration..."

Maybe in an alternate universe. The "sequestration" cut less than 5% from a federal budget that had increased by 34% due to Obama's "one time" stimulus that became the new budget baseline. We need an additional 40% cut to stop running deficits.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The deficit is shrinking significantly - over $1 trillion prior yr vs 750 billion this yr estimated. However I would agree with your point that sequestration is a small part of this drop. It's mostly due to tax increases and also a small improvement in the economy.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama and his "unbelievably small" "pinpricks"...was bound to wind up with Putin Envy.

The Windsurfer and Windtalker wanted to find a way to bow across Assad's shots. Assad went on 60 minutes and actually made a persuasive argument for gassing terrorists. Obama then went on and was a nearly empty gasbag.

In this administration it always seems that the left hand doesn't know what the other left hand is doing.



48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent VDH. Adding to our present problems is the Mafia-like character of our Democratic enemies. Extortion (unions,) Protection racket (trial lawyers,) etc.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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