President Barack Obama. (Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Obama will probably launch several dozen cruise missiles into Syria in the next few days—without allies (except France, which seems to view Syria as a lost colony), without public support (polls show lukewarm backing at best for an attack and overwhelming opposition to another Iraq-style war), without much congressional support, and without the support of NATO, the Arab League or the United Nations.
Like a pathetic schoolyard bully who’s drawn a line in the sand and beats up people who cross it, Obama is going to war in Syria simply because he drew a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and President Assad flouted it. (Needless to say, it isn’t even clear if it was Assad who ordered the attack using a nerve agent, since at least some of the leaked intelligence shows that it was a local commander who intended the use to have much more limited, local effect, not a mass killing of hundreds.)
In Obama’s case, as is the case with many other bullies, he’s going to find that bombing Syria won’t restore America’s collapsing prestige and clout in the Middle East.
Take Syria: in 2011, Obama called for President Assad to leave office. He was ignored. In 2012, Obama warned Assad: don’t use chemical weapons. He was ignored. In 2013, he urged the Syrian rebels to attend a conference in Geneva aimed at ending the conflict, and the rebels ignored him, too. There are plenty more points of data where those came from, and not only in regard to Syria. In Egypt, virtually everything the United States has done since the start of the Arab Spring in that country in 2011 has been ignored, rejected, laughed at, ridiculed or politely (and not so politely) dismissed. Even Saudi Arabia, whose kleptocratic rulers have depended on the United States to protect their oily throne, have pretty much done what they want: invade Bahrain, prop up President Mubarak and then oust Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, fuel the rise of Islamist fighters in Syria.
So now it appears that the president of the United States will bomb Syria—against the advice, apparently of some quarters of the US military—in what’s guaranteed to fail to improve America’s standing in the region.