Re: Putin and Assad just blinked.
posted at 9/11/2013 11:36 AM EDT
The Russian president had coldly brushed back Obama on Snowden and Syria, and only last week called John Kerry a liar.
Now, when it is clear Obama can’t convince Congress, the American public, his own wife, the world, Liz Cheney or even Donald “Shock and Awe” Rumsfeld to bomb Syria — just a teensy-weensy bit — Pooty-Poot (as W. called him) rides, shirtless, to the rescue, offering him a face-saving way out? If it were a movie, we’d know it was a trick. We can’t trust the soulless Putin — his Botox has given the former K.G.B. officer even more of a poker face — or the heartless Bashar al-Assad. By Tuesday, Putin the Peacemaker was already setting conditions.
Just as Obama and Kerry — with assists from Hillary and some senators — were huffing and puffing that it was their military threat that led to the breakthrough, Putin moved to neuter them, saying they’d have to drop their military threat before any deal could proceed. The administration’s saber-rattling felt more like knees rattling. Oh, for the good old days when Obama was leading from behind. Now these guys are leading by slip-of-the-tongue.
Amateur hour started when Obama dithered on Syria and failed to explain the stakes there.
Obama’s flip-flopping, ambivalent leadership led him to the exact place he never wanted to be: unilateral instead of unified. Once again, as with gun control and other issues, he had not done the groundwork necessary to line up support. The bumbling approach climaxed with two off-the-cuff remarks by Kerry, hitting a rough patch in the role of a lifetime, during a London press conference Monday; he offered to forgo an attack if Assad turned over “every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community” and promised, if they did strike, that it would be an “unbelievably small” effort.
A State Department spokeswoman walked back Kerry’s first slip, but once the White House realized it was the only emergency exit sign around, Kerry walked back the walking back, claiming at a Congressional hearing Tuesday that he did not “misspeak.”
The president countered Kerry’s second slip with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie Monday night, declaring that “The U.S. does not do pinpricks,” which Kerry parroted at the hearing Tuesday, declaring that “We don’t do pinpricks.” For good measure, Obama, in his address to the nation Tuesday night, made sure the world knew: “The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”
Where the mindlessly certain W. adopted a fig leaf of diplomacy to use force in Iraq, the mindfully uncertain Obama is adopting a fig leaf of force to use diplomacy in Syria.
Even as Democrats tiptoed away from the red line, eager to kick the can of Sarin down the road, their own harsh rhetoric haunted them. Kerry compared Assad to Hitler last week, and Harry Reid evoked ”Nazi death camps” on the Senate floor Monday.
Again, an echo of the misbegotten Iraq. Making his hyperbolic case for war, W. was huffy with Germans on a visit in 2002, irritated that they did not seem to grasp the horror of “a dictator who gassed his own people,” as he put it to a Berlin reporter.
Obama cried over the children of Newtown. He is stricken, as he said in his address Tuesday, by “images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor” from “poison gas.” He thought — or thought he thought — that avenging the gassing was the right thing to do