Obama's Feckless Saber-rattling

Posted: Sep 12, 2013 12:01 AM
Sen. Barbara Boxer had been appealing to my better instincts as she never had before. The Democrat from California provided a crucial vote in favor of a resolution sought by President Barack Obama to authorize the use of military force in Syria. Boxer voted for military force even though that position was highly unpopular among her constituents.

The U.N. Security Council hadn't passed a corresponding resolution. Boxer didn't care. She argued that Washington must act, lest Iran "view us as a paper tiger."

On Tuesday, before Obama addressed the nation on the need for Congress to authorize military force against Syria (sort of and one of these days) to redress President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people, Boxer appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball." She was a spitfire. She insisted the Senate had the votes to move the resolution forward. She railed against host Chris Matthews for not showing video of gassed children during the interview setup. "No one talked about what Assad did to his people," she fumed. Boxer forcefully made the moral argument that the use of "vicious" chemical weapons against "babies, infants, children" demands action.

Boxer touched on all the good reasons to support Obama's call to arms -- not boots on the ground -- in Syria. Assad's use of chemical weapons could embolden terrorist organizations. Al-Qaida might get some of his lethal stash. Iran is watching. Western powers have to stand for their rules; otherwise, the world's weasels will think they can attack U.S. assets with impunity.

Then, like Obama, like Secretary of State John Kerry when he asserted that any U.S. strikes would be "incredibly small," Boxer demonstrated why Washington Democrats cannot be trusted to do the right thing in Syria. Boxer praised the president for being so resolute, praised her committee for passing the resolution and referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to press Assad to hand his chemical stockpile to international handlers. "It brought us to this moment, where we have a hope here that we can resolve this in a way that doesn't require military force," quoth Boxer.

In other words, the administration was bluffing, and she showed the cards to prove it.

If the past week has proved anything, it's that the Obama administration is more afraid of its own threats than Assad is.

There are reasons to be circumspect. The Arab Spring strengthened such U.S. enemies as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. If Assad goes, al-Qaida-friendly rebels will gain traction. U.S. firepower could take innocent lives -- which would defeat the mission's purpose.

Voters are sick of foreign wars, not just the casualties but also the price tag. Moreover, it makes no sense for Washington to threaten military force to combat evil while pledging that any attacks will be "limited." Team Obama waved a white flag before firing a shot.

In short, Obamaland made a hash of the politics and the messaging. This president is so clueless about saber-rattling that when he threatened the use of military force, Putin knew how to turn Boxer and Obama's "moment" into an opportunity.

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