Putin and Assad are lying snakes, so any deal with them must engender supreme skepticism. Obama and Kerry almost say so (diplomatically), but in fact Obama will swallow whatever dish of worms Putin and Assad feed him, to wriggle off the hook on which he so needlessly impaled himself.
That hook was his foolish call for a Congressional vote – which he didn’t need and was bound to lose – a presidency-wrecker. To avoid that, Putin and Assad well know, Obama will lie down for anything.
While postponing a strike pending negotiations might be logical, postponing the vote actually is not. Congressional backing would have strengthened Obama’s negotiating position. A “no” vote, on the other hand, would have relieved Assad of the need to negotiate at all. Thus postponing the vote (forever, presumably) is Obama’s declaration of weakness; it belies his speaking last night of “the credible threat of U.S. military action.” Putting it up to Congress gutted that credibility.
Many, including Obama and Kerry, have stressed how hard it will be to get a deal that will truly take care of Syria’s entire huge stock of chemical weapons. They’re right. So we’ll get a fig leaf deal. At least, you might think, it would preclude Assad from using chemical weapons again. But remember, no one thought he’d do so after Obama’s “red line” statement. And after this new agreement-to-be, if Assad re-offends, what will Obama do? Will he be up for going through this whole ghastly wringer again? I doubt it, and Assad will too. Using chemical weapons again afterward would show up Obama as a chump.
And anyway, the deal would still leave Assad’s conventional military capabilities wholly intact, capabilities he’s already used to kill 100,000, and which might have been degraded by U.S. missile strikes. Avoiding that blow, and in effect getting a free hand to continue his killing spree, in exchange for what is likely to be a meaningless restriction on chemical weapons, seems like a pretty sweet deal for Assad.
Yet I’m for it, if the alternative is Congress voting no. A fig leaf is better than naked impotence.
So, the winners: Putin and Assad, of course, and bad guys everywhere, now knowing they have little to fear from America. And Obama, who avoids doing what he never wanted to do, and the humiliation of Congress telling him he can’t.
The losers: The Syrian people, of course, and the world as a whole, which has just been made better for thugs and worse for human values, than it might have been, but for Obama’s feckless miscalculations. (Should his Nobel Peace Prize be revoked?) America’s credibility, and its role as the world’s policeman, take a big hit.
Yes, I said policeman, as in, “We shouldn’t be the world’s policeman.” Do you want to live in a society with no cop on the beat, and psychopaths can rampage with impunity? The fundamental social contract entails government – and policemen – protecting us from harm by others. There is no world government, but America’s role is the next best thing. Somebody has to take responsibility, step up to the plate, and act as the world’s policeman, or else we’ll live in a much more disorderly and violent world. America is the only country capable of doing it.
Or would you prefer China?