The mess in Syria keeps getter more and more bizarre.
First, last weekend, President Obama made an about face and decided to ask the permission of Congress for a strike against Bashar Assad over the used of chemical weapons.
Bizarre because he spent the previous week trying to convince anybody who’d listen that he didn’t need Congressional approval.
Then, on Wednesday, President Obama said this:
“I didn’t set a red line, the world set a red line. My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility’s on the line.”
What? Really? Well maybe he should have thought about that a year ago when he said this while responding to a reporter’s question about what he’d do if chemical weapons were used. This was during one of his rare White House press conferences:
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or bio weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear, to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is if we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. ...  We have communicated in no uncertain terms for every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.”
OK, I really didn’t hear much about “Congress” or “the world” there. There are plenty of examples of him talking about setting a “red line,” which he now says he didn’t set.
And he wasn’t the only one.
Administration officials were saying things like:
“We go on to reaffirm that the President has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States ... “
“It is absolutely the case that the President’s red line is the use of chemical weapons ...”
And the people in Syria and the Assad regime should know that the President means what he says when he set that red line.  And keep in mind, he is the one who laid down that marker.  He’s the one who directed that we provide this information to the public ...”
No Congress. No world. Just Obama. He’s the one who, ... oh, wait, no, never mind. He didn’t set that red line.
There are only a few explanations for this nonsense. The administration is playing some weird, delusional, semantic game. They don’t realize that we have Internet access and can look this stuff up. They think we’re stupid.
It’s probably the later. They all think they’re pretty smart guys. The rest of us?  Not so much.
Enter Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Chuch Hagel. These guys are now  characterizing Bashar Assad as the devil incarnate. A murderer. A thug.
Fair enough. The guy probably is.
But as recent as March 2011 then-Massachusetts Senator Kerry told some folks at the Carnegie Endowment for International  peace that, “President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had.” Kerry also predicted Assad would change for the better.
“So my judgment is that Syria will move,” he said. “Syria will change as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.” Nice speech there, Sen. Kerry.
That same month, pushing the Obama narrative that we should be negotiating with all the evil dictators of the world, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on “Face the Nation” that lawmakers who had visited Assad considered him a “reformer.”
“There’s a different leader in Syria now,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” No need to contemplate military action, she said.
How ironic that in that same month, pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in Syria leading to the brutal civil war we see today.
The Washington Times had a fascinating story about what happened in 2005 when President Bush and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to get tough with Assad and labeled him a bad actor.
Assad was doing things like increasing ties to Hezbollah and Hamas –  terrorists groups backed by Iran. He allowed Iran to use Syria to pass rockets to terrorists. Assad’s Syria played a role in Hezbollah’s assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, because Hariri was the leader of an anti-Syrian group in Beirut, you see.
Assad started helping al-Qaida by letting jihadists pass through the Damascus airport to safe houses and then into Iraq where they killed U.S. troops.
Amid this backdrop, the Bush administration refused to engage Assad in talks until he changed his evil ways.
That policy miffed then-U.S. Senators Kerry, Hagel and Biden, who skewered Rice and the Bush administration for not engaging in direct talks with Assad.
After Obama was elected, Kerry became Obama’s main man in Syria, schmoozing with Assad, still pushing the talk-to-everybody doctrine.
Before a 2009 meeting, the Washington Times reports the U.S. Embassy in Damascus sent a cable to Kerry and other U.S. Senators on the trip.
(Proper credit to Wikileaks.)
“You should expect an enthusiastic reception by government officials of the Syrian Arab Republic (SARG) and from the media, who will interpret your presence as a signal that the [U.S. government] is ready for enhanced U.S.-Syrian relations. Your visits over the course of February 17-22 form a trifecta that Syrians will spin as evidence of the new Administration’s recognition of Syria’s regional importance.”
Murderous thug, eh?
All this, I suppose, doesn’t necessarily support or negate the current administration’s position on the issue, but it does tell me one thing: Whether politicians support a military action depends largely on the politics of the guy proposing it.
My view is that Obama’s Syria policy is unintelligible. It’s a red line. It’s not a red line. We won’t arm the rebels. We will arm the rebels. Congressional approval not needed. Congressional approval needed. It’s a swat-the-hornet’s-nest policy with no end game. It would make more sense if he was talking about regime change. As it is, he’s just talking about making Assad mad.
I probably wouldn’t support regime change either, because, how’s that “regime change” thing going in the Middle East these days?
 Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Egypt all have undergone uprisings and regime change. Are things going swimmingly in those countries? Is democracy flourishing? Given the choice, lots of folks who live in those countries would probably wind the clock back and take back their despots.
Evil? Brutal? You bet. But at least the whole country hadn’t devolved into lawlessness, chaos and mayhem under their rule.
And now, the vacuum of leadership in those countries leaves them ripe for Islamist extremism.
I just think we need to stop sticking our nose into these places – oil and Israel or no oil and Israel.
This is an international problem that needs to be solved internationally – not by the U.S. lobbing missiles, which wouldn’t solve anything anyway. The U.N. needs to get off its duff and fix stuff like this. This is precisely why that organization was chartered.
Here’s some of what I wrote back in December, 2002 in the runup to the Iraq war under the headline, “W's Hawkish Policy Raises Concerns:”
Some of these W policies really have me scratching my head. It's like the U.S. is trying to enrage half the planet.
I fully support the "hunt-down-al-Qaida" policy. Yeah, let's do that. That's just fine. And frankly, most other nations are OK with that policy, too, including Arab nations. They're even arresting and detaining some of those al-Qaida guys.
But I have a tough time swallowing the "run-Saddam-out-of-Iraq" policy. I really don't see the two as the same thing.
I know Saddam is a bad man and I know he has ignored U.N. resolutions. But there are plenty of other countries run by bad men and good men that have ignored U.N. resolutions.
And other Arab nations aren't exactly on board with the run-Saddam-out-of-Iraq policy, either.
I feel the same way today. Our leaders just never learn.