Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - We now know that Barack Obama's national security warnings were written in disappearing ink that runs and fades the moment he gets into trouble.

As reports began appearing with increasing frequency, that Syrian monster Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons against his own people, Obama tried playing the tough guy, warning the Damascus dictator that doing so would cross "a red line" that would invite U.S. retaliation.

Believing Obama was all bluff and bluster whose threats weren't worth the paper they were printed on, Assad sent gas-filled, rocket- propelled missiles into civilian populated areas outside the capital that were supporting the rebel freedom fighters.

Obama sent U.S. battle ships into the region, armed with cruise missiles, then went before the country to say he would punish Assad by bombing his military facilities. He also said he'd seek the support of European leaders at the G-20 summit and a vote of approval from Congress to show national solidarity.

But he flew home from St. Petersburg with no support for his limited, punitive war plans, a stunning international rebuke for a U.S. president. Then he woke up the next day to a pile of polls showing most Americans opposed getting involved in Syria's bloody civil war.

That was followed by the ultimate humiliation: Advisers told him he couldn't win a vote of approval in the GOP-run House, where a number of Democrats planned to vote no, and the Democratic Senate also looked like an impossible sell.

Obama was in a foreign policy stew of his own making, looking weak, confused and incompetent as ever, and not knowing what to do next. CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer put it best when he said on the air, "What a mess."

That's when Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad's chief apologist and principal arms provider, threw Obama a political lifeline to get out of the foreign policy disaster he had created. But only on Putin's terms that served his own sinister interests as well as those of Bashar al-Assad.

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry grabbed the Russian leader's plan and eagerly swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Putin's devious offer -- if anyone believes it will happen -- calls for Assad to turn over his chemical weapons to full international control and to insure that none of them have been hidden for later use. That's a process that will take months if not years to conduct and complete. It has many doubters.

Obama quickly put his threat of retaliation on hold for the foreseeable future. War resolution votes in Congress were indefinitely postponed. The stark "red line" has vanished from the administration's dialogue. No one talks seriously of punishing Assad for the murder of 1,400 Syrians by the most heinous agonizing death imaginable.

Meantime, Assad, Putin and their Iranian accomplices got exactly what they wanted: unending delays to buy time for their deceitful plans to keep Assad in power.

Putin becomes a power player in the Middle East where he has been merely an arms dealer for every despot who would play his game. Assad, as this is written, now has a free hand to crush the Syrian opposition.

And while his stepped up military offensive isn't getting much, if any, attention on the nightly network news shows, as it once did, Assad has widened his war dramatically.

"As negotiations to avert a U.S. strike against Syria ramped up last week, so, too, did the action on the ground," the Washington Post reported Monday. "War planes dropped bombs over far-flung Syrian towns that hadn't seen air strikes in weeks, [and] government forces went on the attack in the hotly contested suburbs of Damascus..."

By the end of last week, which was "hailed in Moscow and Washington as a triumph of diplomacy over war, more than 1,000 people died in the fighting in Syria," the Post said.

This is now taking place without a peep from Obama who has been busy licking his own political wounds, and glad to have handed off the ball to diplomats and their endless negotiations to locate Assad's chemical tanks and perhaps seek a negotiated settlement to the war.

It's a surreal situation only Neville Chamberlain could love.

But here at home, there is no victory for Barack Obama, militarily, diplomatically or politically, despite the double-talk from his administration.

"If the president believes, like I do, that a credible military force helps you get a diplomatic solution, they gave that away in this deal. I'm really concerned about that," said Rep.. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

While Obama's job approval polls on the economy are at new lows, his job approval polls on protecting us from international terrorism and military threats have also fallen sharply in the past year.

The Gallup Poll now says that 45 percent of Americans "believe the Republican Party is better on protecting the country" but only 39 percent think the Democrats are.

Notably, the poll was taken when Obama was trying to rally public approval for a missile strike against Syria.

Now he is trying to convince us that we can negotiate in good faith with Assad who still denies he used chemical weapons on his own people. And who wants us to believe that the deadly sarin gas attacks were the work of rebels seeking to overturn his regime.

But the clear evidence produced by the United Nations weapons inspectors shows the missiles that landed in the residential Damascus neighborhoods had Iranian-built launching systems. Others had Russian lettering on their shell parts. All of these weapons were known to be tightly controlled by Syrian military forces.

Now Obama is willing to negotiate with the man who gave the order to use them and presumably thinks he can be trusted not to bury much of his deadly chemical arsenal far from the prying international inspectors.

He has turned over all responsibility to the negotiators and essentially washed his hands of the entire affair, while the slaughter in Syria continues unabated.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.