The Magical, Mysterious, Disappearing Obama Red Line
Let's take a closer look at Obama's buck-passing statement in answer to the question of whether a strike against Syria is necessary in order to preserve his credibility after setting a red line:
Let me unpack the question. First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation titled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for. And so, when I said, in a press conference, that my calculus about what's happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn't something I just kind of made up. I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There was a reason for it. That's point number one. Point number two, my credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line. And America and Congress' credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.
So let me "unpack" Obama's answer.
"I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line."
But in his statement back in August of 2012, Obama unequivocally and undeniably did set a red line. Watch the video, and note especially around 2:07-2:08 when he gestures to himself and says, with emphasis, "us," and his back-and-forth use of the terms "we," "us," and "I" to mean the same thing: himself, or his administration with himself in charge. At no point does he cite the international community, except earlier in his statement when he speaks briefly and generally about the international community's role in a possible eventual transition from the Assad regime to a new government in Syria.
"Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation titled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for."
Wrong again. Here's the text of that Act. It condemned Syria in myriad ways, and called for a bunch of things that would never happen and included no means of enforcement and no additional penalties for Syria if they never happened---such as, for example the demand that Syria should enter into "serious unconditional bilateral negotiations with the Government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace," and the suggestion that Syria should be banned from the UN Security Council.