Posted by DrJohn on 5 May, 2013 at 6:45 pm. 22 comments already!

obama red line cartoon

image via Weasel Zippers

The Obama foreign policy has become utterly incoherent.

It’s gotten so bad that someone who is normally an Obama water carrier found himself unable to comprehend Obama’s words.

“A whole bunch,” meet “systematic.” President Barack Obama’s cautious stance on the conflict in Syria shone clearly Friday as he warned President Bashar Assad that “the systematic use” of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels would trigger a forceful American response.

Back in August, Obama bluntly warned Assad’s regime that while he had not “at this point” ordered an American military response to Syria’s civil war, “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

When it comes to chemical weapons, what is “a whole bunch”? What does “systematic” mean? The White House has carefully refused to define either term precisely, keeping the president’s options open. Republicans have called for a far more forceful U.S. role in Syria, notably by arming the rebels and establishing “safe zones” to protect the opposition or Syrians fleeing the fighting.

Note the specific and measurable terms: “A whole bunch.” “Systematic.” On Friday, April 26 Obama also said

“I think all of us, not just in the United States but around the world, recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations.”

Or maybe he can, since that tough rhetoric is now dismissed as “off the cuff remarks.”

WASHINGTON — Confronted with evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, President Obama now finds himself in a geopolitical box, his credibility at stake with frustratingly few good options.

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In a frenetic series of meetings, the White House devised a 48-hour plan to deter President Bashar al-Assad of Syria by using intermediaries like Russia and Iran to send a message that one official summarized as, “Are you crazy?” But when Mr. Obama emerged to issue the public version of the warning, he went further than many aides realized he would.

Moving or using large quantities of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and “change my calculus,” the president declared in response to a question at a news conference, to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the “red line” came from. With such an evocative phrase, the president had defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.

Oops.

It was supposed to scare Assad without Obama actually having to act.

“The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,” said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But “what the president said in August was unscripted,” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the “nuance got completely dropped.”

Oops.

Obama is now reportedly considering supplying lethal weapons to the Syrian resistance after indicating a few months ago that he would not do so.

Oops.

The general consensus is that Obama shot his mouth off without thinking.

“I’m not convinced it was thought through,” said Barry Pavel, a former defense policy adviser to Mr. Obama who is now at the Atlantic Council. “I’m worried about the broader damage to U.S. credibility if we make a statement and then come back with lawyerly language to get around it.”

While Mr. Pavel favors a more active response to the killings in Syria, others worry that Mr. Obama may have trapped himself into going too far. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, told Bloomberg Television that military involvement in Syria would risk “a large-scale disaster for the United States.”

Oops.

And heck, despite what Obama said, we really don’t care if Syria uses chemical weapons

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

Oops.

But what does seem clear is that the Obama regime has no idea what it is doing.

Within the administration, the debate over what to do continues.

“The problem here is we react so slowly,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “There have been many well-thought-out plans, but they address a certain context. Then the context changes, we see the situation as rapidly deteriorating, and the recommendations are no longer so finely tuned.”

Oops

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