Thomas Sowell: Syria and Obama Parts I and II

I cannot see why even a single American, a single Israeli or a single Syrian civilian should be killed as a result of a token U.S. military action, undertaken simply to spare Barack Obama the embarrassment of doing nothing, after his ill-advised public ultimatum to the Syrian government to not use chemical weapons was ignored.

Some people say that some military response is necessary, not to spare Obama a personal humiliation, but to spare the American presidency from losing all credibility — and therefore losing the ability to deter future threats to the United States without bloodshed.

There is no question that the credibility of the presidency — regardless of who holds that office — is a major asset of this country. Another way of saying the same thing is that Barack Obama has recklessly risked the credibility of future presidents, and the future safety of this country, by his glib words and weak actions.

Some people who disagree with Obama’s issuance of a public ultimatum to the Assad regime in the first place, and who also disagree with his recent threat of military action against Syria, nevertheless say that we must back up that threat now, simply to forestall future dangers from a loss of American credibility in the eyes of other countries, including both our enemies and our allies.

But will a transparently token military action preserve American credibility? And dare we risk an unintended escalation, such as began both World Wars in the 20th century?

Since so little real history is taught in even our prestigious colleges and universities, it may be worth noting how World War II — the most catastrophic war in human history — began.

When a weak and vacillating leader, Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, belatedly saw Hitler for what he was, after years of trying to appease him, he issued a public ultimatum that if Germany carried out its impending invasion of Poland, Britain would declare war.

By this time, Hitler had only contempt for Chamberlain, as Putin today has only contempt for Obama. Hitler went ahead with his invasion of Poland. Chamberlain then felt he had to declare war. That is how World War II began. Britain’s action did not save Poland, but only jeopardized its own survival.

Unintended consequences are at least as common in military actions on the world stage as they are in domestic policies that start out with lofty words and end with sordid and even catastrophic consequences.

Assurances from either President Barack Obama or Senator John McCain as to the limited nature of the military actions they advocate mean nothing. As someone said, long ago, once the shooting starts all plans go out the window.

If a purely token military strike will do little or nothing more to preserve our national credibility than will a failure to act at all, why get people killed to spare Barack Obama a personal humiliation?

This man’s runaway ego has already produced too many disasters at home and abroad, and nowhere more so than in the Middle East. A personal humiliation may be all that can make him stop and think before shooting off his mouth in the future, without thinking through the consequences beforehand — as he clearly has not done in this case, as shown by his recent delays and vacillations.

Nor is it at all clear that his previous policies and actions in the Middle East were well thought out, unless he was deliberately trying to weaken the position of the Western world, including Israel.

Whatever the Obama rhetoric, the reality is that his policies in Egypt and Libya have led to replacing stable regimes, at peace with Israel and the West, and tolerant of their own Christian minorities, with chaotic regimes in which fanatical anti-Western terrorists have played a large and growing role, with hostility to Israel and murderous attacks on Christians in their own country.

Barack Obama will try to salvage his policy and his presidency with a speech to the nation. Rhetoric is his strong suit. The big question is: How many Americans have learned to distinguish between his soaring words and his sorry record? Matters of life and death can hinge on the answer to that question.

Chickens are coming home to roost for Barack Obama, both at home and overseas. When he first entered the White house, to worldwide acclaim, and backed by huge majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, he could do whatever he wanted — and could do no wrong, in the eyes of the mainstream media.

People believed whatever he said, whether about how he would cut the federal deficit in half during his first term or how people could keep their current insurance and their current doctor under ObamaCare, which would also insure millions more people and yet somehow lower the costs at the same time.

If he could have done these things, it is hard to know what he could have done for an encore. Walking on water would have been an anticlimax.

Of course he did none of these things. The Obama administration added more to the national debt in his first term than President Bush had in both his terms put together. As for ObamaCare, which has not yet fully taken effect, health care costs have already gone up, and many people’s hours of work have already gone down, as employers seek to escape the huge costs of ObamaCare by hiring part-time workers, who are exempt.

As for foreign policy, President Obama began by betraying a pre-existing American commitment to allies in Eastern Europe, to supply them with an anti-missile defense system. These nations had risked the wrath of Russia by allying themselves with the United States, but Obama blithely talked about pressing the “reset button,” as he flew off to Moscow to try to cut a deal with the Russians behind their back.

His boorish behavior toward one of our oldest and most important allies (Britain) and his insulting behavior toward the Prime Minister of our staunchest ally in the Middle East (Israel) were more of the same.

Meanwhile, Obama fawned over the rulers of other nations, bowing deeply from the waist before the king of Saudi Arabia and the emperor of Japan, in a gesture of subservience that no other President of the United States had ever stooped to. But the adoring media never asked the most obvious question: “What kind of man is this, who feels a need to lower his own country?”

President Obama was caught by a microphone that he did not know was on, telling Russian President Medvedev to assure “Vladimir” that he could be more “flexible” with him after he was past the 2012 elections, and was no longer constrained by the American voters.

Far from getting Putin’s respect, he deservedly earned Putin’s contempt. When Obama’s new Secretary of State, John Kerry, went to Moscow for the first time in that official capacity, Putin kept him waiting for hours before bothering to see him.

At home, when Republicans in Congress tried to suggest some changes in the ObamaCare legislation, back when it was being rushed through Congress too fast for the Congressmen to read it, Obama’s response was to remind the Republicans that he had won the election.

Now these and other chickens are coming home to roost.

Today, President Obama needs Republican votes in Congress to get a majority that will put Congress on record as backing his planned military actions against Syria. And he is by no means certain to get all the Democrats’ votes.

Obama also wants international political cover for his planned military action against Syria. But our old ally, Britain, failed to give us even political backing, much less troops. British Prime Minister David Cameron lost the vote on that issue in Parliament — the first time a British Prime Minister has lost such a vote in Parliament since the 18th century.

Some other nations have given us verbal support — and only verbal support. When it comes to actual military action, some of the Europeans will fight to the last American.

Finally, Barack Obama will try to drum up support from the American people whom he has lied to and deceived, time and time again. On Tuesday night, will he be able to rekindle the old magic again with his rhetoric? Or have those chickens come home to roost as well?

Will President Obama be able to convince the people of the urgency of what he wants to do, when he has already delayed so long that the Assad regime has had ample time to hide the chemical weapons and otherwise prepare to minimize whatever Obama does?

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  • Nope And Chains

    Oh Dr. Sowell I have been tweeting these sentiments. This president who had the democrats throw together a collectivist health insurance program after we begged for a bipartisan answer to our problems in this area. And that little private moment with Medvedev. His divisive racial rhetoric which has destroyed years of repair and repentance. His denial of the exceptional principals by which our country was founded. I could go on but the point is he tears us down, tears us apart, weakens our economy and our standing in the world, then turns around and wants our support for an action for which there is barely a goal? Then what, Mr. Preezy? Back to destroying our great country? No thank you. Go. Away.