President Obama, responding to widespread criticisms that his handling of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis was clumsy and ad hoc, said, “I’m less concerned about style points, I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right.” For the president and many politicians in both parties, problems, whether domestic or foreign, are about policy solutions; perceptions of the policy or its implementation, what Obama calls “style,” are irrelevant. As he said about Syria, “The chemical weapons issue is a problem. I want that problem dealt with.” Continue reading “Prestige and Power in Statecraft”→
When — not if — is the only mystery about an Iranian nuclear bomb.
All the warning signs are there.
In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama on two occasions went out of his way to warn the Iranians that the development of a nuclear weapon “would be a game-changing situation, not just in the Middle East, but around the world.” Obama later added, “It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon; it would be a game changer.”
Strong language. And Obama twice this year again used “game changer” in reference to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, warning him not to dare use chemical weapons. In March, Obama announced to Assad that “the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.” A month later, Obama again warned Assad not to resort to WMD use: “That is going to be a game changer.” Continue reading “‘Game Changers’”→
To believe in the current Iranian, post-Syrian peace initiative, we would have to believe that the Iranian theocracy concedes, in a stunning Qaddafi-like turn-around, that its decade-long effort to obtain nuclear weapons was a terrible strategic mistake that earned it only ostracism and crippling sanctions that have no chance of being ended by a resolute West. Continue reading “What Iran Is Asking Us to Believe”→
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way Syria ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper. We are back where we started — lots of people dying — as the crisis recedes with a high five and a sigh, rather than with America blowing some stuff up. Continue reading “Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!”→
After constant exposure to critically important news, it begins to lose all meaning and sense of urgency. Hearing the same warnings over and over again—especially when the status quo seems static—can cause a certain desensitization, a resigned apathy that ignores the warnings in the wishful hope that they won’t materialize. This hope becomes more optimistic (and passive) with each passing day that the warnings do not materialize.
One of the most evident examples of this phenomenon is the threat of a nuclear Iran. For years, the international community has been hearing about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; for years, the world has been hearing Iran make bold, genocidal threats—most notoriously, that it will wipe the state of Israel off the map. But so far, Iran reportedly still has no nukes, and no large attack has been launched on Israel. Thus, many have become desensitized to the situation—including those charged with ensuring that a nuclear Iran never becomes a reality. Continue reading “Mideast Nuclear Holocaust”→
I think the so-called Syrian crisis is working out as most anticipated:
1) In about a year or so Assad and Putin will announce that they “think” they might have in theory rounded up a lot of the WMD, and will soon make plans to turn it over to “authorities,” subject to further negotiations. Continue reading “Syria Postmortem”→
The Syrian fiasco arose from two mutually contradictory desires. Barack Obama sincerely wanted Bashar Assad to stop killing his own people. Barack Obama also really was not willing to use force to ensure that Assad would stop killing his own people. At Harvard, those desires would not be antithetical. Elsewhere they are.
The desire to avoid the use of force was understandable. Obama ran for president as an anti-war candidate. He damned Bush’s “bad war” in Iraq, while critiquing the conduct of the “good war” in Afghanistan. He had no success with his own bombing in Libya. And he was embarrassed by even a rhetorical entry into the Egyptian quagmire. The president sensed rightly that the country was “tired” after Afghanistan and Iraq. Continue reading “Obama’s Box Canyon”→
So far in the Syrian charade, Bashar Assad has won de facto permission to be a legitimate ruler negotiating with superpowers, while promising to kill thousands more by blowing them up, shelling them, and shooting them without “obscene” chemical weapons.
Vladimir Putin controls the tempo of the crisis. He now issues new initiatives, now delays for consultations and retrospection — as he steps up profitable arms shipments to the Syrians and Iranians. In short, he is in the short-term “saving” Obama from himself, while in the long term insidiously destroying presidential credibility, influence, and respect by the sheer force of his cunning and audacity, as Obama in terms of foreign influence curls up into a veritable fetal position and wishes it would all just go away. Continue reading “The Charade Can Go On — and On and On . . .”→