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A Children's Treasury Of Bitching About Obama's Syria Speech
Between the 9/11 anniversary and Syria, there is just not a lot out there this morning, so let's grit our teeth and shovel through some of the pundit-leavings on Barry's big Syria speech together, shall we? Let's start with Peggy Noonan's pre-speech analysis, in which she proclaims the prospect of Syria's surrendering its chemical weapons "absurd" and decides that Barack Obama has already given up on a military strike on Syria, but "can’t acknowledge this or act as if it is true." Therefore, all Obama can do is to play for time:
Because with time, with a series of statements, negotiations, ultimatums, promises and proposals, the Syria crisis can pass. It can dissipate into the air, like gas.
The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.
We aren't even sure if Dame Peggy thinks Obama should have been a lot tougher with Syria or if he should have just minded his own beeswax; she is absolutely certain, however, that he has bungled this perfectly manageable situation, "in part because this White House is full of people who know nothing—really nothing—about history. They’ve only seen movies." And they are not the movies that play nightly in Peggy Noonan's head, in which Ronald Reagan wears a white horse and stares down bad guys with his nuclear six-shooter.
And so, Noonan says, Obama's speech would have to be
quite remarkable. It will be a White House address in which a president argues for an endeavor he is abandoning. It will be a president appealing for public support for an action he intends not to take.
We’ve never had a presidential speech like that! ...
He will not really be trying to “convince the public.” He will be trying to move the needle a little, which will comfort those who want to say he retains a matchless ability to move the masses. It will make him feel better. And it will send the world the message: Hey, this isn’t a complete disaster. The U.S. president still has some juice, and that juice can still allow him to surprise you, so watch it.
Darn it, why can't Obama just decide on a plan and stick to it, no matter what? You know, for the sake of consistency? Once you say you're going to bomb something, you should go bomb it, even if circumstances change. Or something. The main thing to remember is that Barack Obama is a child, really, just a child, and now he owes that hunky Vladimir Putin a favor:
It would be good for Obama to show graciousness and appreciation. Yes, this will leave Putin looking and feeling good. But that’s not the worst thing that ever happened. And Putin has played this pretty well.
Maureen Dowd is similarly worried that the real winner here is Putin, who has "thrown Obama a lifeline." Forget "pinpricks," the dominant metaphor for the (maybe) Syria deal is going to be that lifeline.
Anyhoo, Dowd says, just when the president is failing to win anyone over to his Syria plan, Putin
rides, shirtless, to the rescue, offering him a face-saving way out? If it were a movie, we’d know it was a trick. We can’t trust the soulless Putin — his Botox has given the former K.G.B. officer even more of a poker face — or the heartless Bashar al-Assad.
She dismisses the Obama talking point that the threat of military action led Assad to negotiate:
Putin moved to neuter them, saying they’d have to drop their military threat before any deal could proceed. The administration’s saber-rattling felt more like knees rattling. Oh, for the good old days when Obama was leading from behind. Now these guys are leading by slip-of-the-tongue.
Except, of course, for the part where Obama pretty much dismissed that whole no-military-option thing out of hand, so we're not sure he's actually neutered? And is it just us, or does Maureen Dowd unduly worry about the testicular status of political figures? This is like a thing for her?
And finally, the last of our Weird Sisters on the Syria speech, WaPo's Jen Rubin, who is seriously disappointed that Obama is unwilling to pursue the only reasonable option in Syria, which of course has to be Git Tough and force regime change:
The speech was exceptionally revealing in the logical disconnect that plagues his policy: Chemical weapons use is beyond the pale and different than any weapon. We cannot let it go on. We have a national interest in acting. But I would ask Congress to hold off on voting for me to do anything. We’ll consider a deal to have Assad turn over his weapons. But remain in power .
Instead of a narrow escape from a military entanglement that could have gone on for years with no clear outcome, the Russian proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons is, for Rubin, a lost opportunity of some kind:
Gone is the demand that Assad “must go.” Gone is any penalty for using chemical weapons. Gone is the demonstration of resolve meant to signal seriousness about chemical weapons. Gone is the notion that we care about the plight of Syrians or that 100,000 dead stir something beyond empty rhetoric. Gone is any deterrent effect to Iran. By throwing the ball to Congress and then to Russia, Obama has effectively taken the use of force off the table, letting the Russians and Assad set the ground rules.
At least with Jen Rubin, you know what she thinks needed to be done: Punish Assad, scare Iran out of building nukes, and make the world pay attention to America. Sounds like a pretty easy plan, really, because we did such an awesome job with overwhelming force in Iraq and Afghanistan.