The count: 100,000 people dead. 2,000,000 refugees. 4,500,000 displaced from their homes.
Such is Syria today. Reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it has been called “the greatest tragedy of the century.”
The Daily Mail has the story and the frightening pictures. The situation in Syria has deteriorated to the point where no possible outcome will look good.
But, don’t worry, the world is in the best of hands.
Now, in what Charles Rangel said was “unheard of” President Obama is going to be spurred into action because he has gotten caught in his own rhetoric.
Or better, he yielded to pressure by a faction within his administration that believes America has a moral responsibility to punish genocide.
George Friedman explains:
This time, with major foreign partners demanding action, the president felt he had no choice. A significant faction pressed him on this in his foreign policy apparatus. There were those, like National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who favored the use of military force in the events of war crimes and human rights violations on a major scale. One would have thought that she would have supported the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, the epitome of war crimes and human rights violations, but she didn't, and that's another matter. The point is that, leaving Iraq, this faction felt that the United States failed to carry out its moral obligations in Rwanda, and applauded the intervention in Kosovo.
Many foreign policy gurus now believe that if Obama fails to act America’s credibility will be significantly diminished.
Eliot Cohen made the argument this morning in the Wall Street Journal:
For better or for worse, the credibility not only of this president, but of America as a global power and a guarantor of international order, is on the line. If the U.S.—after its president said two years ago that Assad must go and then, a year later, drew a red line at Syria's use of chemical weapons—now does nothing, profound conclusions will be drawn by a China ready to bully its neighbors, by a North Korea whose scruples are already minimal, and by an Iran that has already killed many Americans in a covert war waged against us in Iraq and Afghanistan.
America's friends will realize that its word means nothing. As a result, they will either abandon us, or arm themselves with nuclear weapons. And these countries will be increasingly willing to wield them in a world in which they have no great ally who may be counted upon to stand by them in an hour of need.
Cohen knows that we have gotten to this pass because we have an “inept and inconstant president.” And yet, he wants to grant more authority to an “inept and inconstant president.”
Besides, what makes him think that American credibility has not already been completely compromised?
Obama has been blustering about Syria for over two years now. He has done nothing to back up his rhetoric. Do you believe that he can restore his and the nation’s credibility by a few days bombing the Assad regime? How will Obama and America look if the casualties include a large number of human shields?
Nothing about administration policy seems to have changed. The proposed bombings look more like posturing than policy. The administration continues to show the world that it has no idea what it is doing in Syria.
The whole world knows it.
In fact, Max Boot points out, Obama’s decision to ask for Congressional authorization while saying that he does not need it, damaged whatever credibility he had left:
It is hard to exaggerate the damage to American standing and credibility in the world that President Obama did with his about-face on Syria: In the space of a few hours on Friday he went from signaling that military strikes on Syria were imminent after pro forma “consultations” with Congress to deciding that he would ask Congress to approve the strikes, even though he admitted that such authorization was not needed for him to act.
Why did he do it? Kimberly Strassel suggests that it’s all about politics. While Republicans are fretting about credibility and national security, the president has been shifting the blame on to Republicans. Never let it be said that he is not very, very good at this.
It may be lose/lose on the world stage. It looks like it’s going to be lose/lose in Syria. But, Obama might well make it win/win on the American political scene.
Americans do not want to think that the president is making grave decisions about military action and U.S. standing on the basis of political calculation. Yet Mr. Obama has treated Syria as a political problem from the start, viewing it almost solely as a liability to the administration's public-opinion polling, its presidential electioneering and its rival domestic priorities. Viewing Mr. Obama's punt to Congress as anything but political is almost impossible. And yet the president again lectures Congress to rise above the "partisan" politics that he has, with great calculation, dumped on them.
Strassel calls it pure cynicism:
The commander in chief is in a box. His desperation to avoid military entanglement in Syria last year—in the run-up to the presidential election—inspired Mr. Obama to fumble out his "red line" warning to Bashar Assad on chemical-weapons use. The statement was a green light to the dictator to commit every atrocity up to that line and—when he received no pushback—to cross it.
Now trapped by his own declaration, Mr. Obama is reverting to the same strategy he has used in countless domestic brawls—that is, to lay responsibility for any action, or failure of action, on Congress. The decision was made easier by the fact that Congress itself was demanding a say.
With the authorization Mr. Obama has sent to Congress, he is forcing Republicans to choose between an inconstant strategy and a "no" vote that harms American interests. When did a U.S. commander in chief last so cynically play politics with American credibility?
Republicans are boxed in:
Should Congress oppose authorizing action against Syria, he can lay America's failure to honor his promises on the legislative branch. Obama aides insist that even if Congress votes no, the president may still act—though they would say that. The idea that Mr. Obama, having lacked the will to act on his own, would proceed in the face of congressional opposition is near-fantasy.
Mr. Obama must figure that if he gets authorization, he nets two political wins. He provides himself cover for taking action, while simultaneously presenting Congress's vote as affirmation of his flawed plan to lob a few missiles and call it a day. When that pinprick bombing has no discernible effect on Assad's murderous campaign, Mr. Obama will note that this was Congress's will. As he said in his Saturday speech, "all of us should be accountable" for Mr. Obama's actions.
Strassel believes that Republicans should put the national interest first.
The challenge for Republicans is to do just that, to remember (no matter how painful) that this is not a vote about the president or his machinations. The only question before Republicans is this: Will they send a message to the world's despots that America will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction? If they will not send that message, they risk complicity in this president's failed foreign policy.
The argument seems to be working. Sen. McCain and Speaker Boehner will vote for the president’s resolution.
As for what America will and will not tolerate, the answer lies in the statistics on Syrian refugees. We have tolerated 100,000 deaths, 2,000,000 refugees and 4,500,00 displaced persons.
A few cruise missiles will not be sending a new message. And they will not make Barack Obama a competent or credible leader.