Kerry: This is our Munich moment, or something
posted at 8:41 am on September 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Great news: the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President has sent his chief diplomat out to Capitol Hill to make the hard sell on war. For the moment, John Kerry has his focus on Democrats, who aren’t exactly rushing to grant Barack Obama super war powers, and that has Kerry warning his own party that the US faces a “Munich moment”:
Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats that the United States faced a “Munich moment” in deciding whether to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
In a 70-minute conference call on Monday afternoon, Kerry derided Syrian President Bashar Assad as a “two-bit dictator” who will “continue to act with impunity,” and he urged lawmakers to back President Barack Obama’s plan for “limited, narrow” strikes against the Assad regime, Democratic sources on the call said.
Three writers at Politico try to make sense of the Munich analogy:
Kerry’s derisive comments on Assad and his reference to the 1938 Munich agreement between Adolf Hitler and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain — after which Chamberlain infamously declared it would lead to “peace for our time” — showed the hard line the White House is taking in its drive for congressional approval of the Syrian resolution. Top administration officials argue that a failure by the United States to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime will only lead to more violence and instability in the region.
It’s difficult to choose a starting point to deconstruct this claim. The only context in which this makes any sense at all is as a warning against weakness, but Western weakness in the 1930s didn’t start at Munich; it was just its nadir. The same is true here, with Obama alternately shooting his mouth off about “red lines” and then failing to do any work to prepare Congress to respond once they were crossed. In fact, it goes back further all the way to the Iranian Green Revolution in 2009 and Obama’s refusal to back it, up through his vacillations in the Arab Spring and his 30,000-foot intervention in Libya that helped create a failed state.
Otherwise, this has no parallel at all to Munich. The people of Czechoslovakia, which Britain and France traded for a few months of peace with the Nazis, aren’t analogous at all to the al-Qaeda-dominated Syrian opposition. Furthermore, this isn’t a negotiation for peace, and Assad isn’t looking for lebensraum by invading and occupying nations to his East. Assad is a brutal dictator, but one Kerry himself has wined and dined, and one this administration at one time embraced as a “reformer.” This is a civil war between two sides that are both hostile to the US, and Kerry wants Congress to authorize military action on behalf of the side that has declared war on the US, which would be at least slightly more like bombing Prague on behalf of Germany in 1938.
Kerry has a tough sell with Democrats, but it won’t get much easier with Republicans. Byron York has five reasons the GOP isn’t likely to give Obama a war authorization, but these two are the most compelling (via Instapundit):
3) The nature of the Syrian opposition. Many Republicans will never be convinced the U.S. can come to the aid of good rebels in Syria without also helping bad rebels in Syria. It’s just too complicated, they believe, and there are simply too many bad guys. Why risk aiding al Qaeda or its affiliates? These Republicans remain unconvinced by arguments from fellow GOP lawmakers like John McCain, who point out that in the Libyan operation the U.S. essentially set up a safe area for good rebels in Benghazi. Given what happened later in that Libyan city, the skeptics will remain unconvinced.
4) The lack of confidence in Barack Obama. There’s no doubt the president has been extremely reluctant to take action in Syria. He also showed terrible judgment by painting himself into a corner with his 2012 “red line” comments on chemical weapons. For those reasons, and more, some Republicans will argue that they simply cannot entrust special warmaking powers to a president who they believe is not competent to use them.
The fourth is probably the real deal-killer on Capitol Hill, but the third should be the real reason why the US stays out of the fight.