Just in case you were wondering if President Barack Obama is any different from, say, “President Mitt Romney” or some hypothetical “President Neocon,” the answer is: Yes. Proof: Syria.
Just take a glimpse at the hysteria of the neoconservatives about what ought to be done in Syria.
To be sure, at the outset there’s this disclaimer: since the start of the Syrian uprising, I’ve been extremely critical of Obama’s actions. When the protests against President Assad were still relatively peaceful and only limited government repression was reported, and when moderate, establishment-leaning (and non-Islamist) opposition figures were beginning to gather steam, Obama jumped the gun and called for Assad’s ouster. That was stupid enough. Since then, though, he’s placated Assad’s external enemies—among them Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who’ve backed Islamism from Tunisia to Afghanistan, and of course Israel—by encouraging, allowing and facilitating the supply of increasingly deadly weapons to the rebels. Some in the Obama administration seem enchanted by the idea that the fall of Assad will deal a huge blow to Iran, even though the United States ought to be fearful of a Sunni-Shiite war in the region that will spark renewed civil war in Iraq and Lebanon. And, of course, OP has seemed unwilling to truly engage Russia (and Iran) in search of a transition in Damascus.
But, to Obama’s credit, he’s resisted an Iraq-style war, a Libya-style no-fly zone/bombing scheme, and am Afghanistan 1980s-style proxy war so far. So far. By issuing “red line” comments on chemical weapons in Syria and by recognizing the illegitimate Syrian opposition bloc cobbled together in Qatar, he’s dancing on a slippery slope.
And the neoconservatives want to push him over the edge.
Writing in the ever-reliable Weekly Standard, Tom Donnelly of the neocon-infested American Enterprise Institute says: “The outcome in Syria will be determined first on the battlefield. If the United States remains militarily self-deterred, we’ll have little say in what happens in Syria. Or across the rest of the Middle East.” Donnelly’s AEI colleague Danielle Pletka, who is a regular bombs-away cheerleader, writing The Washington Post, slammed Obama for what she says is his apparently wishy-washy setting of a “red line” on chemical weapons:
As the control of Syria’s terrain has slipped from Assad’s grasp, there are reportedly indications that not only has Assad moved weapons stockpiles, he has ordered precursors for sarin nerve gas mixed in preparation for their use. As a result, the tough talk Obama embraced earlier has disappeared, as the leader of the free world and his staff contort themselves to explain that when the President earlier warned of “moving” chemical weapons as a “red line,” what he really meant was “proliferate”, not physically move. Ah.