September 4, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: Obama’s Cakewalk: The Syria debacle and the lessons of Iraq.

The appeal of Barack Obama in 2008 lay not only in his status as the only serious Democratic candidate to have opposed the war from the outset, but also in the belief that his conciliatory rhetoric, along with his “multicultural” identity (black, with Muslim ancestors and an Arabic middle name to boot!) would “restore our moral standing,” as the future president put it in his nomination speech, and usher in “a new beginning,” as he announced in Cairo in June 2009.

Obama’s supporters would now have us believe that his swaggering words are as powerful as his soothing ones were supposed to have been. . . .

This is an example of magical thinking that is not wishful. It would indeed be a big tactical mistake for Assad either to attack U.S. forces or again to use chemical weapons while congressional action is pending. But that is because of Obama’s political weakness, not his rhetorical strength. Congressional assent to Obama’s request for military authorization is far from assured; if Assad wants to keep it that way, he will lie low as the debate plays out.

Read the whole thing, including his section on how Obama’s flipflopped. Oh, heck, here’s the best bit:

These past statements indict the president for hypocrisy, but they do not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In his defense one might claim that his moral sensibility has matured over the past six years. Perhaps, that is, he has grown in office–though he has not grown nearly enough by other measures that one can say he is up to the job.

Unless in the next week or so he discovers a heretofore unrealized capacity to move public opinion on substantive matters of policy, the expedient thing for lawmakers of either party to do will be to vote “no” while smugly minimizing the moral stakes by noting that while Assad is of course “a bad guy,” he poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, the Syrian economy is in shambles, there are lots of other mass-murdering dictators and we can’t bomb ’em all, and so forth.

Any opportunistic lawmaker who takes that path will be following the example set by the man who is now president of the United States.


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