Here we go again.
After a great deal of meaningless saber-rattling and much dragging of heels, the Obama administration has finally been forced to admit that yes, Bashir Assad is a madman who kills his own people and has used chemical weapons to do it.
In other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
I really don’t know what Obama is thinking on this one. Did he honestly think threatening Assad was going to have any effect? I’m sure Assad figured out a long time ago that we don’t have the will to do anything that would actually weaken his position. Does Obama think that a “show of strength” in the form of a meaningless expenditure of expensive munitions is necessary? Pro tip: the paradox of strength is that if you need to show it you don’t actually have it. Probably the worst possibility is that Obama thinks said pyrotechnics will actually do anything useful. That would mean he absolutely has no clue at all.
Understand, I don’t think we should be getting involved in this. I have seen no competent attempt to argue that American interests are actually at stake. Everything I’ve heard says the Syrian civil war boils down to Hezbollah versus al-Qaida which means no matter who wins we lose. The insurrection is supposedly so fragmented that there is no one to even try to negotiate with. Neither we nor anyone else in the world has any ability to produce a favorable outcome here without doing something even worse than what’s already happening. E.g. we could end the fighting by killing everything in Syria that walks on two legs but there are some obvious problems with that strategy. What I really, really want is for American politicians to have the Prime Directive tattooed to the inside of their eyelids. (That’s a mixed metaphor but only real SF geeks will understand why.) We need to stay out of the internal affairs of other nations. We’re not the Justice League.
Now that Obama has stuck his neck out this far, the Republicans in Congress should give him the authorization to use force. He’s only asking in the hopes that they’ll stop him. They is very little chance that military intervention will produce any positive results for the administration. The most likely outcome is that nothing will change in Syria and the attacks will piss off Russia and Iran, possibly resulting in renewed terrorist activity. (I suppose if your opinion of Obama is sufficiently low you might argue that’s the intended result to justify more surveillance shenanigans but I don’t buy that.) Giving him authorization does not compel him to use it so the final decision is going to be on him in any case. If he doesn’t go through with it he gets a big black eye. And if the Democrats in Congress block it they increase internecine issues and the Republicans can pillory them with it in the mid-terms: they didn’t support their own president, didn’t take a stand against war crimes, they don’t care about those murdered children (sound familiar?), etc.
Fortunately as I write this it looks like the Republicans are ready to give Obama enough rope to hang himself. For now, that’s making the best of a bad situation.