Speaking to the nation Tuesday night about the Syrian conflict, President Obama sought to cloak his rhetorical and strategic incoherence in the cover of American exceptionalism. He said:
“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Yet, the rest of his remarks, and his administration’s recent actions, belie his assertion of American exceptionality under his leadership. To wit:
An exceptional country does not draw “red” lines it later obfuscates, or denies altogether, or attempts to pin on the “international community,” whatever that is.
An exceptional country does not call for a dictator’s removal then do nothing about it.
An exceptional country does not take a backseat to the machinations of Vladimir Putin.
An exceptional president does not pass the buck to Congress and hope it backs his plan, all the while knowing that if Congress doesn’t support him, he can hang the failure around Congress’ neck.
An exceptional president does not get boxed in by a bumbling Secretary of State who proposes new policy while wandering off the policy reservation.
An exceptional president does not send his bumbling Secretary of State to proclaim chemical weapons attacks a “moral obscenity” and then kowtow to the nation (Russia) that supports the regime (Syria) that launched those same attacks.
With America’s credibility on the line, Obama has appeared weak, incoherent, indecisive, and inconsequential. In contrast, Vladimir Putin has appeared strong, strategic, and decisive. This is evident in the latest proposal to avert a strike: Syria hands over its chemical weapons to international inspectors and in return apologizes? No. Faces sanctions for gassing its people? No. Welcomes the Syrian opposition into the government? No.
If this “breakthrough” proposal sounds familiar, it’s because it is: think Iraq 2001-2003 or Iran 2009 to the present. The “international community’s” record on weapons inspections gives little reason for optimism.
The folly of this proposal is evident by consideration of the possible outcomes.