Free Markets, Free People

Syria: Humiliating, but probably the best deal possible

Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, absolutely nails the magnitude of the debacle the Obama administration has suffered and the reason:

Sometimes a president does not have a communications problem. Sometimes a president has a reality problem.

President Obama’s speech to the nation on Syria was premised on the denial of reality. He claimed that the Russian/Syrian initiative resulted from the “credible threat of U.S. military action.” In fact, it filled a vacuum of presidential credibility. Obama had been isolated within the G-20 and abandoned by our closest ally, Britain. Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of a military strike for which the president clearly had no stomach. Obama was on the verge of the most devastating congressional foreign policy repudiation since the Senate voted 49-35 against entering the League of Nations in 1920.

This president’s biggest problem, other than a total lack of leadership ability, has been reality all along.   He’s always believed he simply has to speak and others will follow.  Yet, in reality he’s done precisely what Gerson claims he’s done – isolate himself and the US.  He has no close relationships internationally.  Our closest ally in everything we’ve done for centuries has abandoned us.  His credibility in the Middle East is hovering close to zero.  His “reset” policy with Russia has been a disaster.  And he remains reactive and indecisive at place in history that calls for decisiveness and leadership.  Consequently another nation is moving to take that lead he’s abandoned.

Vladimir Putin offered Obama an escape, which he gratefully took. But there are implicit costs. A U.S. military strike — something Putin thought inevitable just a few weeks ago — is off. Russia’s Syrian client, Bashar al-Assad, stays in power. The Syrian opposition is effectively hung out to dry. Russia gains a position of influence in the Middle East it has not held since Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of Egypt. This allows Moscow to supply proxies such as Syria and Iran with weapons while positioning itself as the defender of international law and peace. Iran sees that the United States is a reluctant power, with a timid and polarized legislature, that can easily be deflected from action by transparent maneuvers.

Other than this, ’twas a famous victory.

Speaking of credibility, to watch the spin-meisters attempt to call this a “famous victory” shreds what little they may still enjoy.  No one grounded in reality and at all concerned with their credibility would declare this any sort of a ‘victory’ for the US.

But hey we had a speech …

The resulting message was boldly mixed. Assad is a moral monster — who is now our partner in negotiations. The consequences would be terrible “if we fail to act” — which now seems the most likely course. America “doesn’t do pinpricks” — especially when it does not do anything. “The burdens of leadership are often heavy” — unless they are not assumed.

And here we are.  A shrunken giant, leaderless and adrift.  “Led” by an incompetent with coming negotiations headed by another incompetent (Kerry), both of whom have been badly played by the Russians and the Syrians.  There’s no reason to believe they won’t come out on the short end of this deal either.
As for the planned, then unplanned, then delayed, then put on indefinite hold strike that Kerry claims is the reason Syria came to the table – Charles Krauthammer lays that out for you:

That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

“Unbelievably small”.  Likely had ’em shaking in their boots in Damascus.

Krauthammer also sums up the “deal” Obama et. al. are now trying to claim was their idea all along (not that anyone but the most gullible or partisan or both are buying that):

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

Indeed … some deal.

All of that said, it may end up being the “best” deal we could hope for given the ineptness and incompetence of this administration. Back to Gerson:

I am relieved that President Obama was given a reprieve from a devastating rejection by Congress, which would have wounded the presidency itself. We should hope (against hope) that a negotiation with Putin, Assad and the U.N. Security Council to establish international control of the world’s third-largest chemical weapons stockpile in the middle of a civil war is successful. And Congress should seek ways to strengthen Obama’s hand in negotiations.

But this remains a sad moment for the United States. We have seen a Putin power play, based on a Kerry gaffe, leading to a face-saving presidential retreat — and this was apparently the best of the available options.

Pretty bad when this is the best outcome one could hope for … a degree of face saving for a less that satisfactory president who still doesn’t realize how badly he was bested.


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68 Responses to Syria: Humiliating, but probably the best deal possible

  • Maybe best for Americans by Obama accidentally doing the exact opposite of what he intended.

  • Anything that’s bad for Obama is good for the US.
    Plain and simple

    • More generally, the State Department.  Obama is just a marionette. When he is gone, State, making the world more dangerous for Americans, will remain.

  • The “deal” is a joke.  Putin and Assad are now using this potential “deal” as a level to get whatever they want.  Assad wants us to stop arms to the “rebels”, whoever they are.  Obama has been reduced to “poodle” status
    Meanwhile, that promise to make the world love us again seems even more distant.  Both in Germany and in Egypt—two very different cases, to be sure—politicians and parties have chosen to decry Washington. Anti-Americanism is back.

    • I would be fine with stopping the arming of the rebels as long as Syria gave up their chemical weapons.
      And we should consider that maybe he is actually willing to give them up.

    A fine Bill Whittle presentation on the dangers of forgetting history.
    Well, and delusional thinking…
    Nothing is more dangerous in foreign affairs than ambiguity. Unless it is ambiguity borne of delusions about who we are and who our adversaries are.


    • Speaking of ignoring history, we know that a certain Prof (among others) is very happy that American power is waning… good and necessary you all know. However, he seems to think that this point in history is unlike any other. For at other times when powers have lost their influence and ability to deter, it generally results in a period of chaos and wanton destruction. If anything, this process seems to get worse as the more powers involved get stronger. Witness the collapse of empires during WW1 and the destruction of the power of Britain, France, Japan etc during WW2. Witness the periods of chaos in Chinese history as dynasties collapse. Witness the ethnic cleansing and internecine warfare as Soviet power collapsed to be only partially replaced by weaker Russian influence. Etc etc. The likes of Erb seem to believe this *won’t* happen again (because, you know, Twitter), whereas all evidence points to the fact that the period of collapse of US international power could be devastating as rivals jockey to come out on top. Sometimes you have to wonder if these people really are mentally deficient, rather than just trolling Obama fanboys.

      • We can analogize to the principle of entropy.  Any system of order has to be energized to remain in place.
        Erp would deny the millions of people who did NOT die, live shortened, wounded or diseased lives, and the world-wide expansion of wealth that was the product of Pax Americana.  Along with expansion of market capitalism.
        Erp is a Collectivist tool, and his crap would get…IS GETTING…a lot of people killed.  It is what they are, and they consider themselves superior.

      • Actually, from at least 1805 to WW2 the world’s oceans were controlled by the Royal Navy. Since WW2 it has fallen to the USN. For over 200 years Anglo-Saxon navies have been dominate. The only exception was the first 6 months of 1942 in the Pacific Ocean. The wane of US power would be a move into dangerous, unknown territory.

        • Not really. If you are just worried about the law of the seas then we should allow merchants to arm themselves. As for US power. I fail to see how it’s use anytime in the last thirty years has led to more stability instead of less stability.

          • You fail to see millions killed by the Khmer Rouge, huh…???
            You fail to see the millions displaced or killed in Viet Nam?
            You fail to see the millions killed and displaced in Rowanda?
            You fail to see 25 million Iraqis given a change for self government?
            You miss a LOT.

          • The point isn’t that the presence of stable powers, or a stable superpower, prevents *all* conflict or that any conflict they engage in ends perfectly. The point is that when the superpower begins to lose influence and a deterring effect by its mere presence, then conflicts inevitably arise more often and proceed to worse conclusions before the emergence of new power blocs.

  • I wonder if Obama and Kerry understand their own weakness and realize that the most people see them as utter fools. Are they so enamored of their ideas (and themselves) that they still believe things are going well for them now? Does Kerry engage in negotiations with Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov with confidence in his own skills, or does he know that he is the stumbling boob in the room? Will Samantha Power finally realize that her Soft Power policy is a failure? Might she even examine the policy to define its flaws and work on crafting a more realistic approach?
    Are you old enough to remember Steve Martin’s “Theodoric of York” bit on Saturday Night Live? If so, then you already know the answer to my questions.

    • A great moment showing Sun Tzu’s military theory: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

  • Well the exercise has demonstrated a few things:

    1. The UN is powerless in the face of genuine use of WMD. Without doubt North Korea will be observing closely.
    2. Russia can protect its interests with ease. No doubt China is watching with interest.
    3. American military power and the threat of its use has been seriously degraded as a deterrent.
    Muppets like Erb see this as proof of the wise leadership of Obama, but on this planet the clear message is that the world just got more dangerous as the balance of power shifts and the nasty brutes running these countries realize that they have a lot more freedom to move and be protected by their sponsoring powers.

    • No, Erp knows wha is going on. He is just a lier rooting for evil.

      • Like Obama, Erb wants the US to be weaker.  That is punishment for all the evil capitalism, historical racism, and everything they hate about this place.  The trick, for Obama, is to mask such goals just enough to maintain plausible deniability, to retain power enough to tear down the system.  What’s left is a world in which the socialists get to call the shots and the US shifts into being just another unexceptional socialist country, replete with all the class warfare, lowest common denominator, authoritarianism, etc. that that entails.  By the time most Americans figure out what is going on, the train will be arcing through the chasm.
        Erb may not be smart enough to consciously realize how this is all working, or even honest enough with himself to admit where this is going.  Either way, he’ll predict prosperity.  But his unwavering support for the Obama disaster means his own cognizance of the goals does not change his behavior, one way or the other.  I suspect he’s just a useful idiot, who will cheer for the party leaders until the end, blaming every calamity in the news on “greedy people”, Republicans, or others.

        • As usual Elliot, you are lying.  You are ascribing beliefs to me that I don’t have.  Why do that – why not be honest?

          • Liar? LOL! Silly Scott. Shouldn’t you be busy deleting comments from your own blog?

          • Well you may not specifically want what Elliot specified.  But what we’d get as a result of your goals is about what he described.  The difference being we see that and you don’t.
            You think you and your ideals will lead us to utopia, we know better.

          • “Putin played into Obama’s hands ”
            Are you subscribing to Obama Beat these days?   Have his posters on your bedroom ceiling?  Get together with the other dreamy eyed giggly little girls and write fan letters to the White House?
            As incredible as you were that one statement defines how ridiculous your perception of this situation has become.

          • To quote his Erbiness, who is either suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or really is so desperate to be correct he will project anything on to Obama:

            “I am probably too positive about Obama because he thinks like me – that creates a bias.”

            Note, not “I think like him”. Oh no! He thinks like ME. I think that reveals more than enough about the deluded crank residing in Maine.

          • Yeah, I saw that.  Hard to tell who the bigger narcissist is.
            I rather doubt Obama thinks his capacities are as limited as Erby demonstrates his are

          • You are ascribing beliefs to me that I don’t have.

            Go back and read the entire comment.

  • “Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while!” Is that politically incorrect? I don’t want to piss off PETA!

  • Theodoric of York: [ steps toward the camera ] Wait a minute. Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps I’ve been wrong to blindly folow the medical traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test these assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a “scientific method”. Maybe this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning: the natural sciences, art, architecture, navigation. Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance! [ thinks for a minute ] Naaaaaahhh!

  • The whole thing reminds me of the story of the migrating song bird being saved by the cow scrapping on it.  Putin may have dug him out of the cow pie, but he ain’t Obama’s friend.
    There was nothing good about this whole deal and not a damn thing Obama planned.

  • I really don’t think Obama getting everything he wanted is humiliating!

    • Shouldn’t you be waiting for Pino to own your ass on this before you splatter it around elsewhere?

    • Gets everything wants?  What color is the sky in your world, Erb?  Obama wanted to punish Assad.  Tell me, where is the punishment?
      Assad gets to pretend in 9 months that he has gotten rid of his chemical weapons.  Then Russia backs him up.  Assad gets the US to stop arming his opponents.
      Wow, some punishment!

    • Assad must go!  Assad is the new Hitler!  Yeah sounds like Barack wanted to work with Assad!
      Only someone who gets a man crush on Obama can see that though.
      Gets everything he wants…..heh.  I thought he wanted people to take him seriously, and view him as super competent world leader worthy of a Nobel prize.  That ain’t happening lately.
      Just say it Scott, admit what we all know.  You were wrong.  Obama is not up to the job.  It’s a content of his character issue.

    • Erp only reads from the moonbattery…and even then very, very selectively.
      He only comes here to republish the lies they pack up his ass.  Dutifully.

    • Hey Scott, how come you are carrying on the same conversation at your blog with someone but deleting all their comments after a certain point to make it look like they aren’t responding any more, even though you are still talking to them?

      • When the owner(s) of a blog engage in sincere, honest debate, they usually allow opponents to comment freely.
        When the owner(s) of a blog are dishonest propagandists, they usually block people whose comments contradict them.

  • Read the article – Obama got the best deal one could imagine, and he did it by threatening military action (a threat which still stands – just because he didn’t bomb right away doesn’t mean he has ruled it out, even if Congress says no) but engaging in diplomacy.  The money quote from the article: “What the Obama administration contemplated – cruise missile strikes – would not have ended the fighting, certainly, and likely would have made it worse. What the administration has achieved with the threat of war rather than the act should be acknowledged for the limited but very real victory that it is.”
    Nothing succeeds like success and any way you paint it Obama got a real victory, one good for Israel as well (that’s also in the article).  I know you guys won’t admit it, but this is certain to go down as a case where Obama ignored critics and patiently got the best possible result.  That’s leadership!  I think everyone agrees this is better than a military strike.

    • Sure and a drunkard college student who puts his car into a ditch and talks a tow truck driver into pulling him out for $100.00 instead of $200.00 can claim he got the best deal too.
      In the adult world when you find someone to bail your ass out for something stupid YOU did you try not to make it sound like you were a genius for having gotten yourself into a bind in the first place.
      RED LINE.  If tough golfer had kept his mouth shut he wouldn’t have to have done any of this.

    • If Obama wanted to give Syria human shields against US cruise missiles and Russian boots on the ground so Assad could crush Obama’s beloved “rebels”, he could have just offered all that from the start. 🙂

      • Would have looked bad for the election.  Timing is better now. He can be more flexible about how Israel gets obliterated.

        • The only problem with going over to Obama’s house for Poker Night is bringing enough empty suitcases…

    • Yeah nuclear Iran( ) protected by Russia, that’s victory.  I’m sure that’s a victory for Israel. I’m sure that’s part of Obama’s genius plan.

    • Obama got the best deal one could imagine

      … for sufficiently small values of imagination. Erb’s first law of quantum spiritual mathematics.

    Obama has a new daddy, and his name is Vlad…the Impaler.

  • Did anybody here think Erb would do anything but claim complete and total victory for his “Messiah” regardless of the deal that was to be struck?  Assad has assured himself of survival, guaranteed by Putin and recognized by the world.  Assad will tell the world of his chemical stockpiles, or those he wishes to reveal.  And then he gets 14 months for the process to go to completion – meanwhile he and his Iranian, Hezbullah, and Russian partners have a virtual blank check to do anything they wish to the rebels so long a chem weapons are not used. Any bets here as to what will be left of the rebels after 10 or so months?  They got sold down the river to save Obama’s credibility.  Yeah, Obama is the big winner here – only in the minds of people like Erb, who will continue to do what he curses us for – blindly following his fearless leader!!!

    • Erb’s shrill recitation of on-going glorious victories in the face of overwhelming Russian onslaught reminds me of the final days in the Führerbunker and all those wonderful “Downfall” parodies. Judging by the posting times on his blog he is up in the small hours planning the rout of the Tea Partiers, persistent commenters at his blog and communists who don’t bow before the majesty of the glorious leader. And Jon Stewart as well, traitorous bastard he is! Even now massive armies of magenta caterpillars are massing outside Farmington, ready to relieve the Obama Youth in their valiant defence of the last bastion of Hope and (small) Change.

  • This is what happens when you elect someone because he looks cool standing next to Jay-Z.

  • … Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?
    Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.
    He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East(Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.
    At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.
    —Dr. K
    Obama got punked.


  • My weekend column is about Putin’s urge to kick a man when he’s down. Having initially misread his New York Times piece, Peggy Noonan now gets the point:

    He is telling the world he knows how to correct America, tell it off, criticize it for its conceit. And he does it right to their faces, not in a Moscow interview or a St. Petersburg speech. He is rubbing America’s nose in it for the delectation of its friends, occasional friends, foes and occasional foes.

    All those friends and foes around the planet get it, too. Time magazine publishes four global editions: The cover story of the Europe/Africa edition, the Asia edition and the Pacific edition reflect what actually happened this week; the cover story of the US edition is some heartwarming fluff about nothing. The palace guard in the America media are doing a straddle Pravda and Comical Ali never had to attempt – telling the truth to the world while keeping their domestic readership in the dark.
    Hence, the cooing coverage of this weekend’s “agreement”. A “deal” that pretends to be about chemical weapons inspections is, in fact, a deal that “the US will not interfere in Syria’s civil war“. Under the absurd plans to send international inspectors into a war-zone is an agreement by Obama and Putin that what happened to a US client in Egypt and a French client in Tunisia and an Anglo-American-French client in Libya will not be permitted to happen to a Russo-Iranian client in Syria.
    Whether Obama knows that’s what he’s signed on to is unclear. But, if you don’t think the Middle East and the wider world get that message, you must be reading the US edition of Time.
    —Mark Steyn
    Funny, Time publishes an edition strictly for the rubes in the U.S.  What does that tell you, Erp…???

  • Best line I have heard for years:  Putin was playing poker while Obama was playing chess.  And somehow Obama thinks he won!

    • Obama wasn’t playing chess, he was playing rock, scissors, paper, lizard, Spock. But he couldn’t remember if Spock pinches Lizard, or Lizard eats Spock…

  • So far in the Syrian charade, Bashar Assad has won de facto permission to be a legitimate ruler negotiating with superpowers, while promising to kill thousands more by blowing them up, shelling them, and shooting them without “obscene” chemical weapons.
    Vladimir Putin controls the tempo of the crisis. He now issues new initiatives, now delays for consultations and retrospection — as he steps up profitable arms shipments to the Syrians and Iranians. In short, he is in the short-term “saving” Obama from himself, while in the long term insidiously destroying presidential credibility, influence, and respect by the sheer force of his cunning and audacity, as Obama in terms of foreign influence curls up into a veritable fetal position and wishes it would all just go away.
    So Obama for now is relieved. He can say that his saber-rattling stopped further use of WMDs and let others sort out the truth that 99 percent of the killing, past, present, and future, does not require the agency of chemical and biological weapons. He can sorta threaten Assad “to comply,” boast about the U.S. “reserving the right to use force,” promise support for the insurgents without really defining who they are, “consult” with Congress — and golf in peace.
    —VDH at TheCorner

    There’s more. You should read it.
    Delusional Chicago community organizers are no match for KGB-trained tyrants.
    I mean, both have the same impulses and attitude toward American norms of law and freedom, but they are worlds apart in terms of their ruthlessness and strategic thinking.

    • To paraphrase Pyrrhus, Obama and Erb are basically saying:

      If we are victorious in one more battle with the Russians, we shall be utterly ruined.


      • Or….
        We’ll redefine the term phyrric victory to mean a brilliantly handled maneuver that demonstrates deft and patient actions to achieve the best possible outcome.

        • Under Obomic Victory you’ll see the phrase
          phyrric victory where the loser’s denial is steeped in narcissism. 

  • Erb doesn’t care that Obama diminished the US. In fact, that is exactly what Erb wants. He is just updset that Obama diminished himself in the process, hurting his chance at pushing through bad domestic policy like amnesty, etc.

    So Erb lies about this, claiming Obama did well.