Barack Obama finds himself in Sweden today, a late change to his G-20 itinerary after deciding to snub Vladimir Putin over Edward Snowden’s asylum. Fittingly, Obama used a joint press conference in Stockholm with the Swedish Prime Minister to massage his own role in the diplomatic debacle over Syria in which Obama now finds himself. Obama insisted that he didn’t set a “red line” for action over the use of chemical weapons, but that Congress did … and so did everyone else, except Obama, of course:
“My credibility is not on the line — the international community’s credibility is on the line,” President Barack Obama said Wednesday in Sweden regarding his desire for a military strike in response to a suspected August chemical attack in Syria. He said the question is, after going through all the evidence: “Are we going to try to find a reason not to act? And if that’s the case, then I think the (world) community should admit it.”
President Barack Obama said Wednesday the “red line” he previously spoke of regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria wasn’t his own, but the world’s. “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98%” of the world’s population “passed a treaty forbidding (chemical weapons) use, even when countries are engaged in war,” Obama said in Sweden.
That’s certainly true, but it is equally true that the international “red line” on this issue was set through the UN, which is now claiming that only the multilateral organization has the authority to enforce it. UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon warned yesterday that military action outside of the UN’s auspices would also violate international law — and would at the very least undermine Obama’s argument here. If Obama strikes Syria without even bothering to ask the UN for support, then how can he rely on the UN’s “red line” as justification?
“I respect the U.N. process,” he said at an event in Stockholm with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who opposes military intervention without U.N. approval.
Obviously that’s not the case, since Obama isn’t even bothering to propose action at the UN Security Council. George Bush did at least that much, but the US also had justification to open new hostilities in Iraq thanks to the repeated violations of the Saddam Hussein regime of the 1991 cease-fire agreement over a twelve-year period. No such justification exists separately here.
By the way, here’s Obama from a year ago setting the red line:
That looks a lot like Obama setting that red line, doesn’t it? “That would change my calculus — that would change my equation.” There wasn’t any hint of we or they in that statement.