(Article changed on September 16, 2013 at 22:00)
Though not for lack of trying, Obama has in his solo flight dramatically flubbed War-making 101. It's all the more astonishing, considering to what lengths, and political costs, he's duplicated his predecessor's policies. Yet the president never learned the classic skill-set executed against Iraq: the demanding art of waging wars of choice absent assault or threat to national security.
That devious craft, mastered by that pious posse of Dubya, Cheney and Rumsfeld, made pre-emptive unilateralism core to American foreign policy. Until this month. Team Bush understood Washington, the Pentagon elite, the State Dept., and how to manipulate the national media, thanks to Karl Rove. A one-strike pinprick against a brash violator of international norms like Syria would have been child's play -- done and over in a weekend, then festooned with triumphant bragging before the smoke cleared.
For residual fans, Obama's war ploy failure may prompt them to crow, "See, he went to Congress, not as bad as Dubya." But the rest of us remain aghast not only at the cumulative, self-induced White House's incompetence but the improbable, Hail Mary catch by Russia. What adult entrusts peacemaking to caprice by a mouthy Sec'y of State picked up by an autocratic power broker with his own fish to fry? Sounds to me like Russian roulette, with about the same odds. Does John Kerry's rash of inane hyperbole not make the ever-traveling, low-achieving Hillary look the tactician?
Apparently, short of invasion, no president named Obama will hawk the audacity of war with the urgency of now. What klutz orchestrates a remote, one-shot war without rounding up home troops, political and otherwise, in advance? As with failed domestic generalship on immigration, budget balancing or gun control weren't enough, Obama sought, cultivated, then fell into his own overseas quicksand of bad choices. These second term fiascos are getting as tiresome as they are predictable.
So, Obama can't compete with the deceptive Iraq war brigade, not even when boosted by today's bellicose McCain war crazies. Obama went from drawing unsupportable "red lines" to red-faced embarrassment when his war production flopped. That half the rightwing GOP cheered the war nonsense, and more than a few Democratic worthies, invoke the theatre of the absurd. Obama and Pelosi in bed with McCain and Graham, plus Boehner and Cantor -- that won't happen without another 9/11! And not a political win for any for their wayward, bipartisan militarism.
Death to Surgical Strikes
What he-man warrior survives postponing the war cry decision, as if waiting a month makes no difference? Delay is death to belligerence, worsened by punting anything to this Congress. Compare Bush-Cheney, who kept all preposterous propaganda ducks in a row, with deceptions feeding on subterfuge with calculated efficiency. Lean on anti-terrorism, impugn a despicable tyrant (so he's a former ally), push the massacres of his own people and growing threats to neighbors. Right, then talk up weapons of mass destruction with graphs and data and swear that mushroom clouds will exterminate universal democracy.
That's how you start an indefensible, unholy war of choice. Compare Obama's wimpy moralisms about death from gas being so much worse than fire-bombing or equally heinous abuses to the human body. Or claims that if Syrian gets away with poison, our troops are next in line. Right, even those armed to the teeth, just itching to retaliate with ten times the retribution?
Headline: Could the Syrian stalemate signal the neo-con legacy of endless war is showing its age? Or just getting too pricey even for us? Yet unilateral militarism driving empires is a growth industry. Could we have an imperial threshold shift, as more empires die from bankruptcy than defeat in battle? And let's face it: in terms of national security, Syria is like Iraq, near the bottom of the barrel. Talk about a logical slippery slope: one limited attack hardly presages a swath of global terrorism.
We are only months since re-election and the Obama administration continues to implode. When dumping Larry Summers as Fed chair BEFORE he's nominated gets bold headlines, the WH crew guilty of mishandling operations is hurting. On war powers, once an automatic reflex, President Lame Duck gets stuffed by his own party. No president in a century who screamed "infamy" didn't get to rush into the breach. Maybe that ornery power called fate decided to block a faux-peacenik from promotion to war president.
Leveraging Self-made Gaffes
In any case, Syria puts the lie to Democratic loyalist claims this president can't get anything done because hateful Washington meanies want to show him up. And put him down. Can Obombardier blame anyone else for his predicament, likely shocked to have lost the House battle before firing a shot? Only a nod to providence explains Obama's lucky escape, facilitated by blundering staff, then seconded by his estranged buddy, Putin, seizing a match to light his "peace parade."
Perhaps the world tilted at the mind-boggling image of the Russian religious convert as the latest champion of peace. Whatever, I say: hip, hip, hurray that unilateral, cowboy belligerence at last failed, even when done by inept gunslingers. Hurray for gridlock! Hurray for trumping WH fantasies on easily halting gas attacks! Hurray for a rightwing anti-war gang, just as quick as Putin, ready to assault its favorite enemies: illegitimate Obama and the illegitimate federal government wasting (Tea Party) taxes it doesn't have. Hurray for what NY Times columnist, Timothy Egan, called "a staggering display of mush, muddle, and miscues" that might even reign in a rogue nation without firing a shot. Imagine, after countless jets and drones that strike at will, not a shot was fired. Now that'd be a miracle.
The Huge Price for Re-election