Belmont Club

Hezbollah's Challenge

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah has openly upped the ante in Syria by declaring his organization on the side of Syrian President Assad.  “Nasrallah – a close ally of Assad – also hinted that Russia and Iran, Syria’s principal supporters, would intervene militarily to prevent his defeat.”

By throwing his turban into the ring Nasrallah served notice that the Syrian conflict might drag in Israel via Lebanon or the long-range rockets Hezbollah has aimed at the Jewish state. In short, Hezbollah has escalated the Syrian conflict and internationalized it. The Guardian writes “‘Nasrallah just made sure Syria will get a lot worse,’ quoting analyst Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.”

Meanwhile the President — who drew the Red Line on chemical weapons in Syria, a line which has now been crossed — is parsing and parsing and parsing. Having in the words of Andrew McCarthy, “judicialized” the fight against al-Qaeda he  judicialized the chemical weapons threat in Syria. In a press briefing Obama said of the chemical weapons whose use proclaimed would be punished ‘we have evidence’ of use of weapons but says ‘what we don’t know is who used them’.

“What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside Syria,” Obama told reporters. “What we don’t know is who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody. Without evidence of what happened, how can I make a decision what to do? I have got to make sure I have got the facts.”

He had better hope it wasn’t the Syrian rebels who used the chems for his relief at learning that Assad had not crossed the Red Line might be tempered by the realization that al-Qaeda had. Here’s a joke about Syria that is too cruel to speak. The Good News on Syria is that Assad is losing. The Bad News is that al-Qaeda may be winning.

But this was not a moment for such thoughts, only for mincing words and examining their meanings a process the reality based media refers to as sophistication. The President’s conduct drove Charles Krauthammer to expostulate, “chain of custody? What is this, CSI: Damascus? In the middle of a war you expect a chain of custody and decide if a weapon was used?”

But Krauthammer should realize the President thinks that way. And this is what the judicialization of war looks like: sheltering in place, warrantless searches, rules of evidence, Miranda warnings, probable cause. Speaking of the bombing of the Boston Marathon recently the President said they were still trying to figure out what happened.

We will not know that until the investigation of the actual crime is fully completed. That is still ongoing. But what I can say is based on what I have seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing, but this is hard stuff.

Hard stuff. And harder still when the primary suspects were known to the FBI, the CIA and the DHS  years in advance and whose details were inscribed in the Massachusetts welfare rolls. The problem, Krauthammer argues, isn’t that the facts are foggy. The problem is that facing them is unbearable to Obama.

It seems that Nasrallah has got Obama’s number. He understands what Obama won’t openly admit: that his Red Line in Syria, like the fake victory over al-Qaeda, was nothing but a talking point. Krauthammer cuts to the chase.

Look, this is a president who sees himself as a liberal reformer. He remember what happened to LBJ. He knows what happened to George Bush. You get involved in a foreign war, your presidency is ruined. And I think he has been determined from the first instant with Syria that he would not allow himself to be dragged in.

I think the reason he put out this supposed red line about chemical weapons is that he imagined, A, it wouldn’t be used or that it was a way to actually postpone a decision until the future. And now that he has this kind of, you know — he doesn’t have an overwhelming instance as we had in the Saddam days where he — Saddam attacked the village from the air and killed thousands of people in one day. In the absence of that, I don’t think he will allow any evidence to compel him to engage in military activity. I think that’s where he starts from, and all over this stuff dancing around it, he is not going to allow himself to get involved.

The President was never prepared to be tough, only sound tough. He cut the military’s budget. Locked the ground forces away in Afghanistan. He left himself without a gun in a machine-gun fight.  So what was he doing drawing ‘Red Lines’?

Maybe President Obama fell victim to believing his own propaganda. Surrounded by a press corps the likes of which attended the correspondent’s dinner he may have believed that all it took to send Assad and Nasrallah packing were a few choices phrases from the teleprompter. He forgot that unlike the Press, Hassan Nasrallah, Assad and Kim Jung Un don’t need to curry favor with him. They paddle their own canoe. They are “higher information”  than his voter base; and unlike the fawning media don’t buy into his pronouncements.

So he bluffed and they called it. What’s he going to do now?

Well for one he could match them and raise. But as Charles Krauthammer noted, that’s out. Or he could go back to parsing and declare victory. That is what he is doing and will probably continue to do.

The problem is that the Bad Guys know this act already. They watched as the administration abandoned the Americans in the Benghazi consulate to their fate, even though help as it turns out, was available. They looked on as he vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice — then jailed a man in LA for producing a video. Victory! They observed as he drew a Red Line in Syria and quailed when it was crossed. They gaped as Kim Jong Un threatened to rain nuclear weapons on the United States and he sat there and took it. They marveled as two Chechen teenagers held an American city hostage, unidentified for days even though they should have been principal suspects and the President warned everyone ‘not to rush to judgment’.

And now they are eagerly awaiting his response to the gauntlet Nasrallah has thrown in his face.

But this is really hard stuff. It’s enough to make a man want to pack up and go home. And yet there is more to come. The rogue elements of the world will pile it on now. Press him until even he can retreat no longer. And then he will respond when things are desperate. He will turn to the doctor when the cancer has metastized.

That’s the problem with kicking the can down the road. The road runs out.

The problem with reality is that it is relentless. Arithmetic always wins. And we typically realize it has won too late. An administration that rose to influence on spin may eventually discover that the facts will have their revenge. Maybe starting now. So what they should do? For openers they can stop reading their own press. It’s the one thing they shouldn’t have done. Never listen to paid flattery.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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