Turns Out You Would Like Me When I'm Angry

Austin Bay:

Expanded intervention in Syria’s civil war? The promised “red line” punitive strike? An equivocal pause for congressional rumination? Ambiguous postponement? Or… a “Saturday Night Live” Emily Litella “never mind” skit on the world stage — farcical incompetence an obscene response to obscene tragedy?

The five preceding sentence fragments framed as questions sketch five potential near-term futures, each either created by or now operationally constrained by President Barack Obama’s Aug. 20, 2012 “red line” declaration. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they could all occur. Near-simultaneity would be difficult, but given this past week’s combination of Keystone Kops and kabuki, don’t say it can’t happen.


There’s more, and of course you should Read the Whole Thing™.

Speaking of simultaneous actions — or in my case, reactions — I’ve been torn between amused dismay at the president’s strategery, and a sort of resigned shock, if such a thing is possible, at what’s going on in Syria. But then I skipped over to Drudge and saw what he has going on above the banner.


And here’s the quote from Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom himself:

“First of all, I didn’t set a red line,” said Obama. “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 [inaudible] 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 entitled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things happening on the ground there need to be answered for. 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’s a reason for it.”


So a made-up percentage of people said something inaudible which demanded — nay, required! — that Ditherton Wiggleroom make an off-the-cuff pronouncement so full of strategic ambiguities I thought maybe it was something my seven-year-old son might have said after getting caught with his little brother’s toys in his pants. If you don’t recall, here’s what Wiggleroom said last year:

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Congress made him say that. Treaties made him say that. And 98% of the whole wide world forced Professor Wiggleroom to explicitly state that he might have to reassign some math homework if some bad stuff happened or appeared to be maybe about to happen. Or something.

To which I ask, “Professor Wiggleroom, where is that 98% of the world?”

We have France, sort of. The United States military, if the order is given. And nobody else, including the American people, really seems to give a rat’s ass what happens in Syria. Maybe they would, if Wiggleroom had — oh, I dunno — actually led on this issue a year ago. Gone to the UN, gone to Congress, hit the bully pulpit, built a coalition. Little things, like that Cowboy Diplomatist did during his 14-month “rush to war” in Iraq. Instead, Wiggleroom finds himself in the uncomfortable and unaccustomed position of having to lead from the front — and there’s nobody behind him but France, looking nervously for the exit. The president who loves to talk has talked himself into a war — and almost nobody else.


It’s clear from his “red-line-not-red-line” statement from last year that Wiggleroom didn’t want a war. It’s also clear that he doesn’t want to look like a total ass on the world stage. But he already has the latter, and he’s probably going to get the former in his increasingly desperate attempts to deny the obvious truth of the latter. What we have here isn’t a rush to war, so much as a stumbling into war.

Red line, schmed line. Did say it, didn’t say it, might have meant it, might not have meant it. It’s 3AM. The phone is ringing. And there’s nobody there to answer it, nobody at all.

What I feel now isn’t amusement and it isn’t shock. It’s shame. It’s red-faced, staring-down-at-the-floor shame for my country that an irresponsible man-child such as this should lead it.

Now Wiggleroom is trying to shift the blame on the GOP half of Congress for approving a war (even though they may not), to pin the blame on treaties for requiring a war (even though they don’t), and to place the blame on world opinion for demanding a war (even though nobody is). But the blame, the responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of a president who would order better men to their deaths for the noble cause of removing his foot from his mouth.



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