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The Shuttered White House and Its Fantasies

I know exactly what is going on inside the Obama White House; the outside world has been banned and only the true believers are welcome.

This has very little to do with the many unique features of this administration. It is typical of any administration under siege, and it is as understandable and inevitable as it is unfortunate and even dangerous.  I know it well, having seen it with my own eyes during the Iran-Contra siege of the Reagan White House 25 years ago, when the president’s men and women concentrated all their energies and all their passions on "saving" the president from what many of them believed was the return of Watergate. I don't know if the Obama faithful have an historical template for the current crisis, but their behavior, like Obama’s, is altogether familiar. The White House is hermetically sealed to reality and the president simply repeats his mantras and tries to look unconcerned, even confident and feisty.

That there is little room for reality at the highest levels of the administration is all too obvious. The president’s public statements are repeatedly off key, responding to imaginary events rather than real ones, and sometimes totally dissonant, as when he gave a speech about jobs at a company that was closing down, or in his increasingly odd and incoherent efforts in foreign policy. For example, consider these amazing lines from a story by Helene Cooper in the New York Times, concerning administration planning for Syria after the now-anticipated fall of Bashar Assad:

…the Obama administration has begun to make plans for American policy in the region after he exits.

In coordination with Turkey, the United States has been exploring how to deal with the possibility of a civil war among Syria’s Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects, a conflict that could quickly ignite other tensions in an already volatile region.

As Ms. Cooper explains, these explorations are driven by a desire to avoid repetition of the Bush administration's errors in Iraq, where the United States did not adequately prepare for what came after the successful invasion of the country. A laudable goal, although the description of what happened in Iraq is typically misguided (there was no civil war; Syria and Iran supported a guerrilla war against the allied coalition), and the list of potential fighters in Syria surprisingly omits the Kurds, arguably the most important of all because they are a major factor in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. But it is the four words "in coordination with Turkey" that demonstrate the extent to which wishful thinking has trumped reality in the Obama White House, for the Turks are hardly ideal allies in the Middle East these days -- they are seeking to establish their own hegemony -- and as long as he is in that dangerous frame of mind, Erdogan is a totally unsuitable partner.  Listen to our own Barry Rubin sum it up:

Turkey’s Islamist regime subverted and then opposed sanctions against Iran. That regime also declared Iran and Syria, Hamas and Hizballah to be its friends. It also sponsored a terrorist group (the IHH) to provoke Israel into an international incident that would generate Islamist martyrs and dead Israeli soldiers. Now, rejecting Israeli conciliation attempts (regrets; donations to families of jihadists who got killed trying to kill Israelis), the Turkish regime escalated to the verge of war.

Worse yet, Obama isn’t actively trying to help the victims of the mass murder in Syria, let alone bring down Assad, despite his proclamation that  “Assad must go.”  He is simply reading tea leaves, trying to avoid looking like an imperialist, and hoping to be able to take credit if anything good should happen.

But what if nothing good does happen?  What if Assad wins?  Ms. Cooper knows it’s possible, but the folks talking to her have a strange way of discussing it:

To be sure, Mr. Assad may yet prove as immovable as his father, Hafez al-Assad, was before him. Many foreign policy analysts say that the longer Mr. Assad remains in power, the more violent the country will become. And that violence, they say, could unintentionally serve Mr. Assad’s interests by allowing him to use it to justify a continuing crackdown.

As if there weren't already a "continuing crackdown"?  As if Assad weren't already ordering the slaughter of his citizens -- sometimes randomly, as when his artillery lobs shells into cities full of protesters?  His violence is quite intentional, and he doesn't "use it" to justify the slaughter.  It's what he does, as his father before him.

Let’s put it in simple English:  Assad is slaughtering the Syrians who are challenging him.  The longer he stays, the more he slaughters.  And he may win.  Then what?  There’s no answer to this obvious question, because the White House is planning its moves after the happy moment when Assad falls and Obama takes credit for it and Erdogan calls the White House to get his orders.