A year into the Syrian civil war, President Obama made an off-the-cuff remark regarding chemical weapons. He said:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
If “whole bunches” of things “being utilized” or maybe just “moving around” changing his “equation” counts as being “very clear,” I’d hate to see what ambiguity would have looked like. But none of that matters, because everybody knew Obama wasn’t being serious, because the very next day his aids leaked that the president might not have really meant the things he’d sort-of said. Obama wanted the appearance of seriousness, I think he thought he appeared to be serious, but there was no actual seriousness to be found anywhere in the president’s general vicinity.
A serious president, after being so very clearly unredisambiguous, would have gone to the UN. He would have gone to our allies. He would have built up support with the American people. He would have done something other than issuing a promise to maybe look into things after the first known chemical attack, months ago. Instead he waited until a second or third attack, this one big enough to kill nearly 1,500 people, a third of them children. And what did he do? Apparently, Obama called up Britain and France because, hey, that’s what American presidents do. And France’s Hollande said “oui” and Britain’s Cameron said, “I want to come over and play but mom won’t let me.”
Russia and China said ain’t nothin’ is gonna happen at the UN.
Obama says he’s going to go to Congress with this urgent issue, just as soon as they come back from recess in a week. He made this announcement on the Saturday of a holiday weekend when college football began. This followed the announcement that his own secretary of State, John Kerry, made on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, signaling that the bombing would almost certainly begin within days.
An American president just indicated he was going to war, had the authority to go to war, needed to go to war right away, but that he would have to ask Congress first, and also, “Hey, guys — where’d everybody go?”
The American people yawned, if they witnessed this goat rodeo at all, then went back to beer and football. The rest of the world went wide-eyed and covered their mouths with their hands in embarrassment.