After President Barak Obama's "policy" speech on Syria this Tuesday past, we're now engaged in the old "if we can't threaten them into submission, maybe we can outwait them" game.
After weeks of pointing to the "line in the sand" and rattling every saber in America's arsenal, it looks like El Presidente might be able to turn a possible public embarrassment into a policy advantage. Yesterday's policy: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassed civilians; U.S. military strikes are eminent. Today's standard: If al-Assad gives up his chemical weapons, we will rub out the line in the sand.
It's very simple, really. Our intelligence says the Syrian army used chemical weapons. Obama says we're going to bomb Syrian military installations and munitions stores. Plans are drafted for a quick strike. These plans (complete with targets and routes) are revealed to the world, making one wonder what ever happened to the tried-and-true military tactic of surprise.
To continue: Secretary of State John Kerry, in what was called an off-hand remark by some and a "gaffe" by his severest critics, said the U.S. might be willing to think about the military option if al-Assad were to hand over his chemical weapons to the international community.
"Hey, that's a great idea. We'll help make that happen," responded Russian President Vladimir Putin. That remark made him the front-runner for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
"Hey. If the Russians think it's a good idea, we'll go along," al-Assad the Reformer (Hillary Clinton's description, not mine) said.
"Wait a minute. We really didn't mean that," said some Obama administration officials. "Mr. Kerry wasn't speaking policy, he was merely thinking aloud." The surprise here is that administration officials accused Kerry of thinking, either before or after commenting.
But wait. Some in the media claimed the move to avoid conflict by involving Russia as a peace partner was "genius." After a number of public comments by administration reps that the Kerry statement was not a policy proposal, it suddenly became one. Heck, someone noted, when Obama met Putin at the recent economic conference, that very idea was discussed. Genius.
Now, students. All who believe Mr. Kerry's statement was a craftily crafted preparation for a way out of military action and that Obamaites were a step ahead of everyone on the planet, please raise your hand. OK. One hand is up. Oh...we understand. It's the second door on the right down the hallway.
The only genius to the "give up the WMDs" is what it does not do for President Obama. It does not embarrass El Presidente before the whole world. His request to the Congress for permission to proceed with plans for air strikes inside Syria has been falling on increasingly deaf ears. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who did support the president, told the administration such a request would probably not pass in her chamber.
While polls show 80 percent of Americans believe al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, roughly 70 percent do not believe U.S. military involvement is the solution. If anything, many believe a U.S. strike would only widen what is now a Syrian civil war.
If we shoot at Syria, the Syrians would shoot at Israel. Israel will shoot back. The possibility: Treaty obligations would require that others in the region (i.e., Egypt, Libya, Iran) shoot at Israel. Israel would shoot back.
Then would come the big test: Would we shoot at anybody other than our own foot? Would the U.S. honor commitments to come to the aid of Israel, or would we be super sensitive to the Russians and Chinese?
The big question: What would our allies do? Great Britain's parliament has already voted "no" on military action in Syria. Among the major powers, only France has indicated it will stand with us. Shades of 1778.
Ironically, President Obama is under a microscope of his own making. And while he's there, he's forced to adopt the very Republican Ronald Reagan's policy of "trust, but verify." It's going to be tough to trust al-Assad; tougher to trust Putin who is positioning himself as the power broker in the Middle East. Verifying will also be difficult since it's the neutered United Nations which will most likely be charged with that chore.
What a tangled web we've managed to weave. Maybe a much smarter spider will come along with something other than a stinger to apply.
Twelve years ago Wednesday, terrorists turned their wrath on this nation and just under 3,000 innocent people lost their lives. Among that number were police officers, fire fighters and medical responders who ran into the burning buildings of the World Trade Center.
September 11, 2001 is a date we shall never forget. Your humble observer urges you, faithful reader, to make sure this date is etched permanently in the nation's conscience. Further, it is our duty to make sure any attempt to alter history and its lesson are unsuccessful.
God bless us, and God bless U.S.