Quotes of the day

posted at 10:41 pm on September 3, 2013 by Allahpundit

President Barack Obama has just ended a summer shadowed by weakness: A convergence of external events and what even some Democrats are calling self-inflicted setbacks have cast a harsh light on a so-far anemic second term…

The next several weeks offer a chance for Obama to shift the direction of a presidency in which he has been slowly bleeding both personal popularity and, more importantly, the intangible mystique of power — one that flows from a president’s ability to let domestic and foreign rivals alike know they will either bend to his will or pay a severe penalty…

In Washington and around the world, both friends and foes can easily read his doubts about his own Syria policy and witness his agonizing over the use of military force in real time. His decision over the Labor Day weekend to seek congressional approval for a limited military strike on Syria came after administration officials earlier signaled that reprisals for use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad’s regime were imminent, perhaps just hours away. On Capitol Hill, the delay is being interpreted in both parties, not as evidence of a principled belief in constitutional authority, but as Obama’s attempt to share ownership if his Syria decisions go awry.

***

“The events of the past ten days suggest that there was no administration forethought to the possibility of a major chemical incident in Syria,” wrote Hof, currently a fellow at the Atlantic Council, where his former boss is Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hof had floated the specter of a chemical attack by the regime months ago.

“The results of this mystifying lack of preparedness have been abysmal,” he wrote, calling Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval for the strikes “constitutionally sound, but strategically appalling” and suggesting the White House find “an objectives-based strategy.”

Hof struck at what, for those who spend their time thinking about grand strategy and not domestic politics, is the heart of the matter. The administration has consistently separated the goals it hopes to achieve with a military strike — punish Assad, send a warning to similar states, restore U.S. credibility — from the objectives it hopes to achieve politically: to reach a negotiated peace in Syria with Assad no longer at the country’s helm. In terms of strategic planning, the separation of the two is almost a rookie error.

***

Realizing that most Americans and our most trusted allies reject Syrian intervention, President Obama now puts it to the Congress to decide. This provides Obama a backdoor to save face, though it would have been more honest to ask Congress up front, had he truly cared about their opinions.

President Obama backed down and, oddly, is taking refuge behind Congress, when he could have said, “I do not have sufficient support from our allies or from other Americans, and as much as it is right to do this, the UN Security Council, many of our foreign allies, and the people who elected me, have spoken. I am, ultimately, a servant to American citizens. You have spoken. I have listened. There will be no attack at this time.”

Those words would reek of authenticity. Credibility would be bolstered. They are not words of weakness. They would be words of humility, spoken by a President who properly consulted Congress, and who listened to the will of the Republic. They would be the words of a leader.

***

This latest volte-face by the president is evidence of a man who is completely overmatched by events, weak and confused, and deeply ambivalent about using force. Yet he’s also desperate to get out of the corner he painted himself into by declaring that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would constitute a “red line.” As a result he’s gone all Hamlet on us. Not surprisingly, Obama’s actions are being mocked by America’s enemies and sowing doubt among our allies. (Read this New York Times story for more.)…

The president of the United States is preparing in advance to shift the blame if his strike on Syria proves to be unpopular and ineffective. He’s furious about the box he’s placed himself in, he hates the ridicule he’s (rightly) incurring, but he doesn’t see any way out.

What he does see is a political (and geopolitical) disaster in the making. And so what is emerging is what comes most naturally to Mr. Obama: Blame shifting and blame sharing. Remember: the president doesn’t believe he needs congressional authorization to act. He’s ignored it before. He wants it now. For reasons of political survival. To put it another way: He wants the fingerprints of others on the failure in Syria.

***

You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, “smart power.” (These people can’t even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn’t see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough…

This crew, so certain of their charm, persuasiveness, and diplomatic mettle somehow failed to persuade the British government or people that the effort against Assad is worth joining.

When it hits the fan elsewhere in the world, the EU is not going to come running with peacekeepers. There is nobody else but us.

***

Since then, further evidence has piled up that Obama is a dithering, indecisive leader willing to deflect making a decision because of what many see as political calculation. It’s one thing when this happens domestically, like when his administration delayed meaningful action by BP and the state of Louisiana to clear up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. It’s another when it happens in foreign policy — especially in the Middle East. Obama stood aloof during the Iranian street protests of 2009. In Libya, he delayed a decision for weeks until choosing “to lead from behind,” in the famous words of one adviser. In Egypt, the administration was caught flat-footed not once, but twice, by uprisings…

[A]s Democratic leaders try to corral those votes [for war in Syria], part of the pushback will not just be questions about the advisability of a strike on Syria, but increasing worries that the president they elected is not ready for prime time when it comes to foreign-policy crises. A Democratic congressman who retired years ago once told me that, while he didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, he was “profoundly concerned” about how Jimmy Carter might have continued to mishandle U.S. foreign policy — from Afghanistan to Iran — if he’d won a second term that year.

Many Democrats may soon wake up to the fact they may indeed have reelected a Jimmy Carter — or worse. And he has a long 40 months left in his term.

***

The toxic atmosphere of suspicion engendered by the President’s radical liberal governing style has left him no well of trust from which to draw. Sadly, but not without cause, the first unspoken thoughts that arose when the President reversed course were that this was some sort of trick designed to saddle his political opponents with the blame for a policy that was already in tatters. That was a natural consequence of five years of political choices by the Administration – when support is suddenly required, don’t expect to instantly receive it from the people you and your mainstream media pals have spent half a decade demonizing.

The Administration is full of smart people, but what it needs are wise people who understand something about human nature. Scorched earth politics burn away the relationships and trust one will need to lean on after he unilaterally draws a red line and then finds himself needing support from his opponents when the enemy steps across.

But that cannot be helped now – we are where we are, and that is on the brink of yet another war. If the President truly believes this is the right course of action, he must literally step up to the podium and place his credibility behind it. He must personally take on the responsibility for this war.

There can be no voting present.

***

Given the White House leaks prior to the British Parliament’s vote against war, it’s pretty obvious that Obama was spooked out of making war all on his own. He senses (correctly, I believe) that he lacks the political capital to do anything without Congressional support.

By promising to go to Congress, where the result is anything but clear at this point, he has weakened the presidency — and really, that may be the single greatest and most historic accomplishment of his presidency so far. Obama’s unilateralism on other issues has justly brought upon him accusations of lawlessness. Now, he has created a precedent that will surely bind Republican presidents and perhaps Democratic ones as well.

***

The president is a spent force, both domestically and internationally. Congress should help by voting to cut our losses; it should resist opening the door to the uncertain consequences of a military campaign conducted, without conviction or clear purpose, by this commander in chief. If Republicans can limit the president’s authority to wander and blunder on the world stage, there is a moral obligation to do so.

Of course Syria should be viciously punished for using chemical weapons, but who trusts this president to do so in such a way that also sends a clear message to Iran? No one does. Why would they? Better to leave Iran with a modicum of doubt than let them witness any more of the tepid uncertainty, lack of conviction or absence of moral clarity from President Obama.

The only thing worse than no response from America is a floundering response, so Congress should stop it while they can. We don’t need to go through the half-hearted lobbying effort in Congress, which will just underscore the incompetence and incapabilities of this administration. Republicans should vote to end this disaster now. A vote of no confidence is in order.

***

Via the Corner.

***

DEMPSEY: I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.

***

Via CNS.


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But it is the cutting of replenishment underway training, flight hours, hours on the range, cutting back on firing table times at Knox, Sill, Bliss and other posts, that sort of thing that irks the hell out of me.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 7:37 AM

You and me both.

I’ve never been to the museum in Dayton but the Navy’s air museum in Pensacola is awesome. The Navy’s museum at the History and Heritage command really needs to be replaced with a facility that in on the same par as the USMC museum. I get the monthly program announcements and they really get by on a shoestring and an awful lot of volunteer effort.

But of course, that is all secondary to what isn’t getting done in terms of training and normal operations. And just how many Tomahawk missiles at somewhere between $750K and $1M are we intending on using for deterrance operations in Syria that are utterly meaningless?

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Who thinks that Obama and his minions are acting for the benefit of the United States in this episode?
Who thinks that he and they are actually acting on some higher and righteous principle?

Not me. I think that it is obviously purely political for these Democrat scum. That’s ALL that they are thinking about- the most base, crass and craven of motives. Any lives lost, American or otherwise, don’t matter one lick to them.
Vermin.
Soulless vermin, the lot of them.

We don’t just have a rodeo clown for president.
We have an evil rodeo clown.

justltl on September 4, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 7:21 AM

An LPD is best used to land a MEU. Boots on the ground.

My youngest boy has 10 days left in the Corps. After 8 years, if he gets hit with stop loss, with ten days left? Not going to be pretty.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 7:48 AM

Who thinks that Obama and his minions are acting for the benefit of the United States in this episode?
Who thinks that he and they are actually acting on some higher and righteous principle?

justltl on September 4, 2013 at 7:46 AM

You insult rodeo clowns by your comparison. The thin-skinned rat has never acted out of morality or the benefit of the people he represents. It’s all about the rat-eared one 24/7/366.

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 7:50 AM

justltl on September 4, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Be hatin’ on Barry all you want…that’s cool.

But why the hatin’ on minions?

Seem pretty mellow sorts to me.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 7:52 AM

Hahaha!

justltl on September 4, 2013 at 7:54 AM

An LPD is best used to land a MEU. Boots on the ground.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 7:48 AM

True but an LPD also has the ability to hold a lot of evacuees should the need arise. I haven’t heard anything about the USS San Antonio having Marines embarked.

Odds are your youngest is in the clear. If for no other reason, politics. Who would issue stop loss orders for a limited campaign lasting hours not days?

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 7:55 AM

But why the hatin’ on minions?

Seem pretty mellow sorts to me.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 7:52 AM

The little yellow ones are minions. Obama has evil minions

And he has lots of them.

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Hof struck at what, for those who spend their time thinking about grand strategy and not domestic politics, is the heart of the matter. The administration has consistently separated the goals it hopes to achieve with a military strike — punish Assad, send a warning to similar states, restore U.S. credibility — from the objectives it hopes to achieve politically: to reach a negotiated peace in Syria with Assad no longer at the country’s helm. In terms of strategic planning, the separation of the two is almost a rookie error.

The first is a TACTICAL decision and that must come after a STRATEGIC decision, which is the second. Obama has not clearly stated the second part which is the STRATEGIC part.

By not being able to separate STRATEGY which drives TACTICAL decisions, in this case GRAND STRATEGY and limited theater TACTICAL, Obama has been unable to differentiate between the two and identify the one that should be put first: and it isn’t the part to ‘punish Assad’. That is done AFTER you state the first as a FOREIGN POLICY goal that is part of a wider GRAND STRATEGY and actually NAME that strategy and tell how Syria FITS INTO IT, then you have no basis to call on going into Syria that is undergoing a CIVIL WAR not an external war of aggression.

Where is the US dog in this fight?

Because it isn’t with Assad nor with the ‘rebels’, and by being unable to say WHAT it is he wants to accomplish he can’t even formulate WHO it is that he truly backs and HOW he is seeking an end to that wider GRAND STRATEGY.

These are not just TWO ‘rookie errors’, but a broad swath indictment against Obama that he has no idea what strategy is, what tactics are, and why it is necessary to formulate and state a clear foreign policy with objectives that he can EXPLAIN TO ANYONE not just his Lefty friends but to the American People, to our enemies and to our allies, plus anyone who is just seeking to steer clear of all of this.

Obama has learned that dance, the Charlie-Foxtrot, and now can’t understand why the music has stopped and he keeps on dancing.

Having reached the bottom of the hole some months ago, he keeps on digging.

ajacksonian on September 4, 2013 at 8:08 AM

My take:: “The Syria Situation: Time to Put “The Maverick” Out to Pasture”

kingsjester on September 4, 2013 at 6:46 AM

…there’s a ‘recall’ candidate…if there ever was one!

KOOLAID2 on September 4, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Where is the US dog in this fight?

ajacksonian on September 4, 2013 at 8:08 AM

Leave Michelle Obama out of it. It was bad enough seeing Theresa Heinz Kerry behind Lurch at the Senate hearings yesterday. She did not look well even taking into account that she’s had health issues.

But to your bigger point. The administration doesn’t want regime change but wants deterrence. These are contradictory strategies. I really wish one of those Senators had pinned Kerry down and demanded which one was administration policy.

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 7:55 AM

With the number of Americans out there, and related local, and other expats…one LPD is not going to suffice, for Egypt or anywhere else.

Back in the mid-70′s we were put on alert to provide “technical” coverage for a planned evacuation of Americans out of Beirut…when the Lebanon civil war first exploded.

We were supposed to stage on the beachfront at Beirut International Airport, do our thing until the last of the evacuees were hustled off to planes and landing craft…then get out of Dodge ourselves. A small Army unit, me a fesh happy young buck sergeant.

Then…then it dawned on the “planners” that the primary road from downtown and the northern suburbs where almost all the Americans lived ran right through two neighborhoods right before the airport…places called Sabra and Shatilla…the two biggest concentrations of Palestinians (and PLO) anywhere in the world at the time…and they were armed.

Somebody smart over at CNO level brought in the Spiegel Grove which pulled up right on the Corniche in Beirut, after Kisinge arranged a 24-hour cease fire in town.

Had we met resistance, God only knows the casualty count.

Now…doing an evac from Cairo, likely under fire…to an LPD off shore? Not logistically possible given the distances, cargo capacity, fuel requirements…and the fact that the landing pad for the US embassy would probably be Tahir Square…a block or so away.

The moment the locals saw those US flags, with their deep abiding love and respect for Obama, today…and taking the evac for an invasion…Egyptians get excited like that, you know…one LPD won’t suffice.

LPD to assist evac from Damascus? Our embassy out there is small..a couple, several dozen on a good day. Americans residing in Damascus? Not all that many and most are spread all over the country.

I’d suggest again the LPD already has a MEU embarked, or there is one sitting just north of Larnaca, Cyprus, at a Brit base located there with helos, waiting for the launch order.

Boots on the ground.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Does he have dreams of building the Caliphate for his Islamic heritage?

Does he see THAT as his global legacy?

If so it’s full speed ahead with the gop leadership team pushing him along.

PappyD61 on September 4, 2013 at 8:19 AM

I’d suggest again the LPD already has a MEU embarked, or there is one sitting just north of Larnaca, Cyprus, at a Brit base located there with helos, waiting for the launch order.

Boots on the ground.

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 8:17 AM

You could well be right. But if so, that means Kerry, Hagel, and the thin-skinned rat have been lying to us about the scope of the mission they are pushing and the level of engagement by the US military. Would they really do that? /

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Happy Nomad on September 4, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Yeah, damn good thing we’ve men of sterling character at the helm…

Well, Kerry has pretty much come out with the possibility of boots on the ground.

Obama?

Just waiting for him to fumble the ball.

I’ve seen him shoot hoops.

Football?

Why expect anything better?

De Niro says Obama is trying, so we gotta lay off. Capiche?

coldwarrior on September 4, 2013 at 8:34 AM

HotAir needs to cover this:

http://youtu.be/bUi0rUEc_wI

You have got to hear this professor bash republicans. Wow

bluegill on September 4, 2013 at 10:37 AM

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