Thursday, August 22, 2013

Has Obama's red line on Syria's use of chemical weapons gone from pink to yellow?

It wasn't that long ago when Obama made the statement in response to why he wasn't doing more to help the Syrian rebels against Assad, that if Assad ever used chemical weapons against the rebels, it would be crossing a red line. And that crossing of the red line would be a game changer.

At the time Obama made the statement he was confident he would never have to back it up because he was certain that Syria wouldn't use chemical weapons. They did.

Obama's response  to Assad's use of chemical weapons the first time, which he waited days to acknowledge when the rest of the world had confirmed it days earlier, was the same response he always gives. The same response he gave to his promise of  a public healthcare option. The same response he gave to his promise of real financial reform and holding banks who were responsible for the financial crisis accountable.  The same response he has given to his promise to close Gitmo.  The same response he gives to everything.  The response was nothing. A  grudging shipment of small arms to the Syrian rebels that was the equivalent of  giving the rebels the capacity to throw spitballs at a battleship.

Now there is evidence that, not concerned about any kind of intervention from the United States, Assad  launched a  second chemical attack, this one massive and against Syrian civilians -- non combatants including children, women and the elderly that by some estimates killed more than 1,300. They symptoms described by doctors make it a near certainty that Sarin gas was used.

It had to make an impression on Assad that the first time he used chemical weapons, Obama's red line turned pink. And so unconcerned about a response from Obama, Assad used them again, with even deadlier consequences. John McCain who has long advocated more intervention by the United States has said the same thing even suggesting it was Obama's lack of response the first time chemical weapons were used, that emboldened Assad to use them again without fear of consequences.

Obama again isnt do much beyond paying lip service to the most recent chemical attack.. His response during an interview on CNN was that the use of chemical weapons " starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has". Haven't we heard that before? A State Department spokesperson said:  "If these reports are true it would be an outrageous and flagrant use of chemical weapons by the regime". Thanks for letting us know that. Because without that Obama approved statement we'd all be befuddled as to what the use of chemical weapons might mean.  Now we know that if chemical weapons were used, it would mean chemical weapons were used. And it would be outrageous and flagrant. As opposed to what? A reasonable and discreet use of chemical weapons? This is Obama at his best. Saying nothing but trying to make it sound like somethng. It's his administration's idea of fighting back with their own chemical weapon: hot air.

The spokesperson also added: "the president  of course has a range of options that we've talked about before." And talked about before and talked about before and talked about before.

Back in April after Obama's first red line was crossed,  his somewhat diluted response to his red line being crossed, his game changer, was promising to send small arms to the Syrian rebels which of itself was a completely empty gesture in that it wouldnt make a dent in the rebels ability to stop Assad's forces. But no one knew exactly how empty a gesture it was until now when rebel forces have complained that to date, those small arms which Obama promised,  as insignificant as they were, was never sent to the Syrian rebels.Obama promised them back in April. Four months later he still hasnt sent them. Adding this to the healthcare public option, holding banks accountable for the financial crisis, closing Gitmo and a truck load of other Obama promises that ended up as landfill.

If Obama still takes no decisive action in the wake of the 1300-1500 civilians killed by these chemical weapons,  it will prove that Obama's red line, which he already had turned pink, was really yellow all along. And a  yellow line  that Obama will not cross.





Anonymous said...

Does the US really want to get involved in Syria?

Marc Rubin said...

"Does the US really want to get involved in Syria? "

Point one is no one forced Obama to open his mouth back in April and threaten that he would take action if Syria used chemical weapons. He did that himself and and when Syria used chemical weapons and he did nothing he made himself look stupid, which is about par for the course. If youre not going to back up what you say, even if your entire history is not to back up what you say, maybe it would be better for Obama just to say nothing as hard as that is for Obama to do. It just destroys U.S. credibility to have him threaten action and then do nothing.

Point two is that a missile strike against Assad's palace, air field or other military target is not getting involved. It's a retailiatory strike that can be a one time thing and would tell Assad these are the consequences for murdering civilians with WMD.

But asking Obama to live up to anything he says is like asking a bird not to chirp. The problem is history shows what happens when you make threats and then back off. Remember this was the president who, when it came to stopping Iran's nuclear capability said " I don't bluff".

So far in Syria he's proved otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Using your logic, it would be a compromise to bomb and run? Forcing Obama to act on his words, yet not committing the US to another expensive full scale war? I think history also shows us fighting force with force never works. You've got a good mind, surely you can think of a better solution than a bomb & run. This should be a global battle, not just another US intervention.

Marc Rubin said...

"Using your logic, it would be a compromise to bomb and run? Forcing Obama to act on his words, yet not committing the US to another expensive full scale war?"

Its nice how you use the word "logic" then proceed to show you dont have any. Bomb and run? Full scale war? What in the world are you talking about? You call that logic? What does that have to do with punishment for using chemical weapons against civilians?

If you think using chemical weapons and killing 1300 civilians is not a war crime, not an atrocity and not neccessary for punishment or a military response you can say so. If you think its no one else's business say so.

If it is a war crime which countries have said a long time ago it is, then you punish those who are the perpetrators. Like we did in Kosovo. It is a very simple idea and why you (and to be fair a lot of others) drag in all this other nonsense about war and Iraq and other stuff is beyond me. Its like people have lost the capacity to think or to look at a tree and see a tree.

Its punishment for using chemical weapons, period. It is NOT intervention in order to influence the outcome of the war on the side of the rebels despite the fact that the U.S. and Obama made it clear he'd like to see Assad gone.

If it were up to me Id order a barrage of missile strikes on Assad's palace and other homes to make him personally suffer and missile strikes on their air fields which will ground their jets for a time and will take weeks to repair. It sends a message that if Assad does it again there will be another and perhaps bigger price to pay.

Full scale war? Bomb and run? Its retaliation and punishment for using chemical weapons, period. And to force him to stop.

For those who want to say, what about the 100,000 who have been killed with conventional weapons, you have a point. But this is about the use of chemical weapons.And a retaliatory strike for doing so. Nothing more Nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Again, where is the support from our allies on this? The world has a responsibility to defend, its not the sole responsibility of this country.

Marc Rubin said...

"Again, where is the support from our allies on this?"

We'll have to disagree on this. If the Brits are too gun shy because of buying into Bush's lies on Iraq, if the Arab League condemns the chemical attack but is afraid to back a use force,then we cant be handcuffed by what our allies won't do. If its the right thing to do then we should do it. For those who think its not the right thing to do, then having allies who support it wouldnt make it right. And there is a good chance that if we do strike, France will support it and probably with air power as they did in Libya.