Years ago (many years ago, alas), a business mogul gave a friend of mine who was thinking about quitting his job a piece of advice: “Don’t give up your wet towel until you have a dry one.” Don’t chuck the job you have until you have another lined up. A homely enough piece of wisdom, but pretty good for all that.
The peacock-like display of moral posturing about Syria reminded me of that apothegm. Are you, as my friend Ron Radosh suggested, an “isolationist,” a “Taft Republican” (is that such a bad thing?), as irrelevant as the dodo bird if you doubt the wisdom of Obama’s plan to attack Syria? And are the divisions over this issue, as Ron says, “eerily reminiscent of those at the beginning of the Cold War,” or even the controversy over America’s entry into World War II, with all the good guys on one side and the rancid, dodo-like characters on the other?
I doubt it. If you want a pertinent analogy to the situation that faces us now in Syria, rather than look to World War II or the beginning of the Cold War, you’d do far better to look to the situation that faced us just a year or so back in Libya. John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s very good friend Muammar Gaddafi was, no doubt, a very bad guy. So we helped the “freedom fighters” who opposed him, thus (or so we thought) watering the tender shoots of the “Arab Spring.”
That sounds odd now, doesn’t it, the phrase “Arab Spring”? You don’t hear it much anymore, and with good reason. Libya, for example, has descended into “lawlessness and ruins,” thanks in no small part to our meddling. It turned out to be a bad case of Spring Fever, not the beneficent outbreak of freedom and democracy we were all promised.
Actually, that’s a promise — or perhaps “fantasy” is a better word — that we made to ourselves. Any candid look at those “freedom fighters” would have discerned not budding James Madisons, but embryo Osama bin Ladens.
And so it is in Syria. I am deeply hesitant about Obama’s plan — or half-plan, or swaggering non-red line in the sand that he never drew anyway. I am deeply hesitant about the spasmodic lurch Obama is threatening partly because I believe he is a bumbling incompetent who is vastly more likely to make things worse, not better, but also partly because I don’t trust the administration’s narrative about what happened in Syria.
Last month, someone used poison gas outside Damascus. Many people, including many children, died. Question: who used the poison gas? That great statesman John Kerry says it was Assad. But what if Raymond Ibrahim is right and it wasn’t Assad but the “rebels” who were using chemical weapons? What then?
As Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, al-Qaeda has a long and grisly history of attempting to acquire chemical weapons.
That’s one question: who actually used the poison gas?
And here’s another, which goes back to my friend’s advice about the towel: suppose we depose, or sufficiently weaken so others can depose, John Kerry’s dinner partner Bashar al-Assad. What then? Assad is a thug. No doubt about that. But what about the people who might replace him? What do we think of them?
As I suggested in this space a few days back, I believe that Obama provides us with a textbook case of a moral quandary Aristotle described in the Nicomachean Ethics. His bad decisions have left him in a situation where he has no good choices. There was a time, early in his administration, when he might have taken effective action against Syria’s big brother, Iran. That time has probably passed. His Islamophilic rhetoric, from his notorious Cairo speech of 2009, right down to his handling of the Ft. Hood massacre, the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Boston bombings, and the multifarious State Department initiatives to stamp out the fantasy sin of “Islamophobia,” have left him weak, confused, and belligerently impotent.
The Founders endeavored to provide a Constitution that could survive weak leaders because they knew that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” The Constitution has proved to be a sturdy prophylaxis. We’ve survived plenty of unenlightened leaders. Obama presents us with the novel case of a leader so infatuated with his own sense of enlightenment and virtue that his bumbling incompetence has — so far — escaped being called to account. I have a sense that is about change as the world wises up to the “Wizard of Oz”-like pantomime that resides at the core of this hapless administration. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how the Constitution survives this insidious assault to which this disciple of Saul Alinsky has been subjecting it. His Syrian adventure does not bode well.