By Gene Lyons

Obama Gives Democracy A Chance In Syrian Crisis

September 11, 2013 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad, National News 61 Comments A+ / A-
Obama Gives Democracy A Chance In Syrian Crisis

Regarding the Obama administration and Syria, preliminary thoughts about a rapidly evolving situation:

It’s not necessary to think that President Obama has performed brilliantly throughout this debacle to suspect that next time around it’s going to be much harder for an action-hero president to stampede the country into war. As a corollary, hawkish politicians will find it more difficult to intimidate skeptics by questioning their patriotism.

On the eve of George W. Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq 10 years ago, this column observed that “regime change” wasn’t a conservative policy, but “utopian folly and a prescription for endless war.” It suggested that over the longer term, Bush’s neoconservative advisors “may have misjudged the American people as well. Mostly, Americans wish to be left alone; they have no heart for endless wars of empire.”

Maybe I was right about that.

Ten years ago, fools were pouring Bordeaux wine into gutters and ordering “freedom fries” because the French urged the Bush administration to let U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq do their work. Ten years ago, American agents were kidnapping suspected terrorists and delivering them into Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s dungeons to be tortured. Ten years ago, “diplomacy” was a dirty word, a synonym for cowardice.

Ten years ago, President Bush, having promised to put his case against Saddam Hussein to a vote in the UN Security Council, reneged on that vow, ordered weapons inspectors busily finding no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to clear out, and commenced his “shock and awe” bombing campaign. The “embedded” American news media treated the subsequent invasion like the world’s largest Boy Scout Jamboree.

These days, diplomacy gets more respect. Most Americans hope for the success of a French-sponsored Security Council resolution transferring custody of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to international monitors. The numbers in a recent New York Times poll reflect a massive change in public opinion. Six out of ten Americans oppose bombing Syria. Sixty-two percent say the United States should avoid taking the lead role in solving foreign conflicts.

Ten years ago, a strong plurality favored U.S. activism. Asked last week if America should use force to turn dictatorships into democracies, people said no by a remarkable 72 to 15 percent. “A war-weary public that can turn an eye from children being gassed—or express doubt that it happened—is another poisoned fruit of the Bush years,” comments New York Times columnist Tim Egan.

Actually, the great majority, 82 percent in a recent CNN poll, believe that the Assad regime launched nerve gas weapons against its own people. But they’ve also witnessed reports of stupefying barbarities by his enemies, and bitter experience has left people wary of believing that American bombs can make things better. They fear that cruise missiles would only be the catalyst for an interminable, slow-motion grind like the Afghan war, which nearly everybody supported at the start.

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Obama Gives Democracy A Chance In Syrian Crisis Reviewed by on . Regarding the Obama administration and Syria, preliminary thoughts about a rapidly evolving situation: It’s not necessary to think that President Obama has perf Regarding the Obama administration and Syria, preliminary thoughts about a rapidly evolving situation: It’s not necessary to think that President Obama has perf Rating:

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Comments

  • infadelicious

    Nuff said!!

    • bandrulz

      More than enough actually. YOU are the clown.

    • disqus_fsqeoY3FsG

      Nice photo of you and Putin.

    • Dominick Vila

      Classic Tea Party infantilism.

  • Dominick Vila

    President Obama’s speech last night was nothing short of outstanding. In addition to outlining the rationale and justifications for action, he reminded us of our
    responsibilities as leader of the free world, the consequences of inaction, and
    ended with a detailed explanation of what may be an effective diplomatic solution while maintaining pressure on a despotic regime.

    The threat of military strikes made Russia and Syria blink. As recently as two weeks ago, Bashar al-Assad claimed he did not have chemical weapons and threatened
    retaliation if attacked. Vladimir Putin promised to veto any UN resolution paving the way to attack Syria or remove his close ally, al-Assad from power. President Obama remained steadfast, even when our closest allies abandoned him, and two weeks later Putin offered a diplomatic solution, al-Assad accepted and the latter not only acknowledged the possession of a chemical stockpile, he promised to turn it over to international control! That may constitute failure in the eye of Tea Party members and those afflicted by mental impairments, but I suspect that what most people will conclude is that we are fortunate to have a man in the White House who can deliver without resorting to violence.

    Not surprisingly, his critics immediately engaged in second guessing and accused him of wavering and allowing Russia to take a leadership role. A little reminiscing seems
    appropriate.

    When Hezbollah destroyed the U.S. Marines barracks near the Beirut airport and killed almost 300 marines, we all braced for action. Instead, the GOP deity told us that was not our war, and let the terrorists that killed our young get away with murder.

    When Kadaffi ordered the destruction of a Pan Am plane, former President Reagan bombed his tent, and gave up. This is the same Republican hero that talked tough, while negotiating with the Iranian Ayatollahs at a time when we did not have diplomatic relations with Iran. The same guy that armed and gave intelligence information to Jihadists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden. The same guy that gave WMDs, and intelligence suggesting collusion between the Iranians and the Kurds, when Saddam Hussein was fighting Iran in the 1980s.

    A more recent example of Republican ineptitude, and lack of strategic skills, involves 9/11 and its aftermath. Shortly after that tragedy occurred the CIA made the names of the Al Qaeda terrorists, the Saudi Arabian princes who financed the attack, and the name of the mastermind behind the attack. Incredibly, former President Bush declared
    Saudi Arabia a Most Favored Nation for trade purposes, and engineering duplicitous excuses to justify the invasion of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. No wonder most Americans are now suspicious of anything our government tells us, and weary of adventurism that seldom results in anything positive for us and those who we, purportedly, tried to help.

    President Obama’s strategy reminds me of the stand taken by former President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, when he beat the drums of war, not against a Third World country or a miniscule island, but against the Soviet Union, a superpower with thousands of missiles with nuclear warheads aimed at the USA. The Soviets blinked and offered to withdraw the missiles in exchange of a promise that we do not invade Cuba. We accepted and global catastrophe was averted
    .
    That’s the difference between statesmanship and immature slash and burn, deceit, and pursuing narrow economic and personal goals. President Obama emulated
    President Kennedy with identical results. Obviously, much remains to be done, including the logistics of disarmament and verification, but we are moving in the right direction and the world is better off today as a result of President Obama’s leadership, determination, and wisdom.

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      Dominick…Excellent post! It should be reposted on every right wing Obama hater site.

    • bandrulz

      Very well thought out post as usual Dominick.

    • RSDrake

      I would add that Putin came up with a brilliant solution.

      • disqus_fsqeoY3FsG

        RSDrake: Why are you so certain it was Putin who came up with a brilliant solution?
        First a spokesman for Putin stated this issue and solution was discussed between Putin and President Obama when he was in Russia.
        Second it has been reported that “In making the proposal, Lavrov cited U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who when asked earlier in the day what al-Assad could do to stop a U.S. strike, said that the Syrian leader “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.”
        So unless you were there in Russia and in the conversations with Putin and President Obama we really don’t know how this originated. Why don’t we give credit to both Putin and Obama and Assad if this works.

      • Dominick Vila

        The tidbits of information that have surfaced the past couple of days indicate that “his” solution was neither unilateral nor spontaneous. Obama and Putin discussed the topic of chemical weapons disarmament as a solution to the current impasse since the last attack took place, and while President Obama was threatening action. In fact, the last time they discussed this potential solution was during the recent G20 meeting. Putin does deserve credit for putting it through and delivering it to his buddy, Bashar al-Assad, but that concession should not be confused with his preference, which she made abundantly clear until it was apparent that President Obama was determined to intervene in Syria.
        Putin’s action is almost identical to the role played by China during the last North Korean bravado. For better or worse, both nations have a lot more influence with the two pariahs they support than we do, which is just fine.

        • CPAinNewYork

          Nice try, Dominick, but you’re out in left field on this one. my advice: Stop trying to pull your liberal buddy’s coals out of the fire. Obama pulled a rock, plain and simple.

      • infadelicious

        Putin looks out for himself. Obozo is one of his useful idiots…

        • RSDrake

          Don’t they all? In this case I think Putin did us a favor. Sending a couple of hundred million dollars in Tomahawk missiles into Syria to “send a message” was not a good solution. Obama can see that in his poll numbers.

          • infadelicious

            Yes, they all look out for themselves. Bombing Syria was a horrible solution? if you can call it that.. Avoid it at all costs, but keep an eye on the other hand…. it may be a fist. Doveryai, No Proveryai

          • CPAinNewYork

            Ok, we’re impressed. You have some knowledge of Russian. Now tell us what Doveryai, No Proveryai” means in English.

          • infadelicious

            Was not trying to impress, but for those who don’t know. Diveryai, No Proveryai is a Russian proverb (one that Reagan liked to use) meaning trust but verify. Good advice in any situation , yes?

      • old_blu

        Even if he did come up with the solution, and I doubt very much he did, it is still a win for us and he wouldn’t of done it with out the threat from President Obama.
        Do you really think he would have said, or done anything without the threat of military intervention? NO!

        • LotusJoan

          Speak softly but carry a big stick, still useful advise.

          • old_blu

            Well said.

    • Elvin G.

      Good going Mr. President, not since the late great president JFK have I’ve seen such a Thinker behind the white-house desk. War never resolves anything. Proud to know you.
      Elvin G.

    • neeceoooo

      Thank you Dominick, I missed the speech and the comments I heard from co-workers were not real positive so I am really glad to hear your take on it.

    • sigrid28

      You probably recall that I have been praising President Obama and his advisers for two weeks now because, in my view, they were engaged in STRATEGIC WAITING. Obama sought the support of the U.K., Parliament refused to give it, and presto!–more waiting was called for. I predicted Obama would seek the approval of Congress and wait for the results of U.N. inspections before striking. All of these steps allowed him to wait for a better solution, one that I believe Obama and his advisers had in mind all along.

      My clue: Obama made remarks about Syria alongside Scandinavian leaders and the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuaia, soon to be U.S. trading partners with even stronger ties to the U.S.–all just a stone’s throw from Russia. He showed his close relations with respectable European and former Soviet allies, while stressing what bad actors Russia’s current allies are, particularly Assad in Syria.

      Even the president and secretary’s roles in dramatizing the effects of poison gas has resulted in Obama being able to bring around to his point of view the one actor, Putin, who has the most to lose if the U.S. takes out airports and other military facilities in Syria: Russia, which has a large seaport and an enormous Christian population in the country. My other argument, and one I CAN make but the president cannot, is that Russia created this mess by backing Assad and providing the chemical weapons he’s been using; it is theirs to clean up. I argued that the actors in the region who had the most to gain from a diplomatic settlement were the Russians, who could spirit away Assad if they chose to and contain the threat of his dipping again into his chemical weapons arsenal. And so it has come to pass.

      Though the media and the general public know little about back channel negotiations, I put a lot of faith in them. A major problem with strategic waiting is that, while the nation playing this long game gets time to negotiate behind the scene, short-sighted critics, who must be kept out of it, have a hay-day throwing punches.

      Or maybe I was influenced by an excellent three-part biography of Winston Churchill that recently played on PBS. Sitting on the dais with Stalin and Roosevelt, Churchill had the gloomy premonition that the British Empire was no longer going to be a world power, because the future would rest with the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

      My strategic waiting theory aside, I was relieved as anyone when it was announced yesterday that the Russians had proposed disarming Assad and turning over his chemical weapons to international monitors. Thinking strategically can be very exhausting, if you do not have any real power to influence international politics. It is one-part intense concentration and the other part, fervent prayer.

      • CPAinNewYork

        If anyone read your posting without knowing its provenance, they might well think that you’re a Washington D. C. insider. You write as though you have a significant impact on our foreign policy. I love your statement that you put a lot of faith in back channel negotiations. Glad to hear that, Sigrid. I can now rest assured that our foreign policy is in your hands.

        I believe that the mess that we find ourselves in was caused by our esteemed president shooting off his big mouth and announcing that we are going to war with Syria over how they treat their people. Now, he has been forced to backtrack, letting Putin take the play away from him.

        Oh, one more thing: “Strategic waiting” is a lot of crap. It’s a euphemism for dropping the ball.

        • sigrid28

          Of course, in your misogynistic world, only the Old Boys in the Old Boys Network get to have a say, so no wonder you don’t give me any credit for following foreign affairs, thinking analytically, and writing very well indeed. Your attitude is: How dare a female commoner take an interest in foreign policy!

          Old Boys may not appreciate the role of deception in politics as much as women do, which is a good argument for a woman president. But I digress. In my humble view, Russia cleaning up the mess that it created in Syria was the administration’s goal from the very beginning, with elaborate delaying tactics put on by the U.S. and its allies creating the ensuing media frenzy that provided cover and finally a fanfare for Vladimir Putin. The Obama administration plays the media like a violin. While Fox News, CNN (or Fox News Lite), and far right radio voices are all harping away on your “dropping the ball” theme and their new found isolationism, President Obama and his allies–and even our supposed enemies–are trying to do whatever it takes to get chemical weapons out of range of Syria and whoever used them on its citizens. Did it ever occur to you that many politicians sometimes give up a point in order to win the whole game?

          Finally, let’s look at your claim that only insiders should write as though they have significant impact on our foreign policy. I think we would be a better country if people from EVERY walk of life paid more attention to the role the U.S. has in the world at large.

          • CPAinNewYork

            I think that you’re crazy. I would have made the same comment if it were a man.

          • infadelicious

            Ok ! Lets say obomba dropped the nail file or maybe lipstick tube? Is that better? Some of the women on this site have a real hate on for men and look for things that will offend them so they can lash out at the “white middle aged bull males” supposedly holding them down. Pffft!

    • ralphkr

      You left out a couple of interesting and mostly ignored facts about Republican tough guy presidents. Reagan had ordered that US service personnel were not to load their weapons until AFTER they were under fire. He was afraid our Marines might insult the locals if we had loaded weapons. Because the sentries had to load their weapons after the truck ran the gate it was able to make it to the barracks and kill 220 of our men. All the US & French servicemen died as a direct result of Reagan’s order.

      Saddam asked Bush’s ambassador what the US attitude was about the border problems between Kuwait and Iraq. Our envoy checked with the White House and was able to pass on the information that the US had no interest in the local border disputes which Saddam took as a green light to invade Kuwait.

      • CPAinNewYork

        Excellent posting ralphkr!

        Dominick does have a tendency to occasionally let his mouth run wild and to seriously distort and omit key facts. Both liberals and conservatives do that.

    • LotusJoan

      It is unconscionable that Fox media
      would claim that the President’s actions were a diplomatic and foreign relation
      catastrophe. The President refused to get in to a d##k contest using the US
      Army as a penile implant. He has chosen the opportunity to obtain what we
      want at very little effort or cost to ourselves. Add to that the very
      real possibility that he is forging an alliance with France and Russia that
      might lead to more cooperation in middle eastern affairs. Tell me Fox –
      how is that a loss for the President and the nation, particularly as it is the
      exact advise given by your network’s owner? There is a total lack of critical thinking
      skills going on at Fox, as usual.

      • infadelicious

        Don’t bring a girlyman to a d##k contest, just sayin”…….

        • LotusJoan

          Thank you for the thoughtful and
          edifying response, Not! Just saying …..

          • CPAinNewYork

            Lotus eater:

            Fox is right. This whole Syria mess IS a catastrophe. Obama jumped the gun, because he forgot to check with our allies.

    • montanabill

      As usual in Wonderland, up is down, small is large and Obama was thoughtful instead of a bumbling amateur.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Dominick:

      Sorry, but I don’t think that Russia and Syria are blinking. Putin has taken the play completely away from Obama. This ex-KGB thug has tricked the slick Harvard-trained lawyer into agreeing to await Putin’s plan before pursuing his Quixotic campaign to cleanse the Middle east of dictatorships.

      Make no mistake about it. Obama put his foot into his mouth and is looking to all the world like a fool.

      Before closing, I’d like to bring out a point that liberals like to ignore. Kennedy’s quid pro quo for Russia’s taking its missiles out of Cuba was not our promise to not invade Cuba. it was our agreeing to take our missiles out of Turkey. I notice that recent History Channel programs are now citing that little exchange of favors, while years ago, they were reluctant to do that.

  • RobertCHastings

    Over the past decades the power of the presidency has grown while the authority of Congress in such issues has been eroded. Finally we have a president who is more inclined to adhere to the Constitution than to his own quest for presidential power.

  • FT66

    There is the say: “better to have more brains than money, if you have both that takes you to the sky which is the limit”. How nice to America to have such a man. Very thoughtful, not arrogant, wants to involve everybody, very calm in the time when the blood is boiling up, have patiency etc. etc. I was wondering why the opposition side can not differentiate. There is time to go apart, and there is time to be together. If it was the time to be together as one nation and one people, this is the time. If the country can’t be thoughtful and come together at this time, when will it be? Observers like us, don’t get it. We are witnessing something which never happened before in American history.

    • latebloomingrandma

      I know. It’s rather sickening hearing the right wing responses today. Just once, I would like to hear something positive, like we are all Americans, when this president does something. good. I guess the contrast is too great between a President who made knee jerk decisions in a black and white way, and one who actually thinks. I don’t think that this made him or our country seem weak. To the contrary. The world saw an example of American democracy at work.

      • FT66

        I agree with you. Go to the Fox News site. It is all about bashing the President and praising Putin. You ask yourself what do these people get from Putin? They lost the election twice not once BUT how long will this bitterness go? They are acting like uncivilised people. I can’t imagine if they won election and the other side is acting the way they are doing themselves now, it could have been screaming every minute and every second.

  • Jack Ragan

    I, personally, think that the slow down of invading, any means, of Syria is a step in right direction. As a veteran of WWll bombings were not as effective as hoped for and would be very difficult to hold citizentry losses to a minimum.
    What happened to NATO, it seems that the situation should have been their concern, not the USA being the police force of the world, on its own. Granted , use of any force such as was used should be damned, but first by NATO, followed by negotiations strictly policed.

    • infadelicious

      I Agree! Jack, thank you for your service to this great country.

      • infadelicious

        wow! who is the loser who downvoted me for thanking a veteran?…how truly sad you are.

    • Mikey7a

      Thank you Jack, and all our Veterans. I will point out, that today’s “bombs” are technically superior to anything we had in WWII. I’m sure that “innocent lives” would be held to a minimum. I’m glad that a diplomatic solution might be reached, but if it breaks down , after hearing my President’s message, I’ll stand behind him, either way we go!

  • silence dogood

    Vladimir Putin is Bugs Bunny, Barack Obama is Daffy Duck. John Kerry? Elmer Fudd. Except Elmer looks more comfortable holding a gun. Obama is Wile e.Coyote after the acme rocket turns and heads in his direction.

    • infadelicious

      hehehe…..yes, and obozo as wile e coyote can hold a little acme umbrella while crap rains down on him.

      • disqus_LcxpBv2uzz

        You too, infant boy!

    • disqus_LcxpBv2uzz

      Typical TPotty analysis; in-depth with tremendous insight. That’s how these fact-challenged “morans” see the world, in cartoon terms.

  • Richard Van Scotter

    “Treated Americans as adults,” absolutely. Remember President Carter did the same in 1979 confronting an energy crisis. Reagan followed by belittling Carter and treating people as children, from which Americans have yet to recover.
    I wish that I could be more hopeful this time.

  • Allan Richardson

    Obama handled Putin the way Kennedy handled Khrushchev: the THREAT of force, followed by “now wouldn’t you rather talk this out?” as opposed to the way Bush “handled” Saddam.

    • infadelicious

      hahahahahaha! sure he did…. he just showed his “flexibility” again…

  • elw

    Thinking an issue out by asking for input can look indecisive if that is what you want to see. The Republicans and other President Obama critics can say as they please, but in the case of any kind of military action the President’s actions have been the moral and correct process to take. Personally, I think the use of chemical warfare is unconscionable and immoral and should be address but on an International level, which seems to be happening now. I agree that the President’s threat helped the International beast to wake up as well as his slow and careful thought process before he strikes not after. All I can say, is look at the standing of President GW Bush in the International eye and compare that to President Obama’s. We have a President we can be proud of, who is respected around the world and can be trusted to make decisions that have taken the good of Country AND all Americans into consideration, not just himself, his party or pocketbook. I for one thank the President.

  • stcroixcarp

    I remember how frustrating it was when Bush was pushing us into war. I stood peace on street corners for five years in freezing cold and blistering heat I remember how people in passing cars shouted obscenities and flipped us protesters the bird at the beginning of the Iraq war.At the end of five years we had people stopping their cars and getting out to join us. I still believe that war is not the answer. It isn’t even the question. I’m glad that I will not have to dust off my anti-war signs just yet.

  • silence dogood

    Would have been nice if he had mentioned the attacks against Christians and the wholesale destruction of their Churches and other facilities by the swine (intentional) we are about to align ourselves with.

    • neeceoooo

      I love it when all you “Christians” start screaming about your faith, God and church goings but you can’t stop hating someone because of the color of his skin.
      Hate your neighbor but don’t forget to say grace.

      • silence dogood

        My post was not a “scream” Sounds like you have some issues.

      • silence dogood

        By the way. You don’t have the standing to put Christians in quotation marks and have it mean anything.

        • disqus_LcxpBv2uzz

          What standing is required in order to put “Christians” in quotation marks? Please explain.

    • sigrid28

      Actually, the Russian alliance with Assad has to do not only with its naval base in Tarsus but also with a very large population of Orthodox Christians in Syria. See Ellen Barry’s “Russian Church Is a Strong Voice Opposing Intervention in Syria,” New York Times (31 May 2012).

    • old_blu

      Yeah because “Christians” have always shown so much love for everyone and never caused any wars, and NEVER attacked anyone especially over what they believe. HUH?
      That is sarcasm BTW.

      • silence dogood

        Get help.

        • old_blu

          Well there’s no way I can argue with that great insight. Can’t you just pray for me? Wait you better wait until I’m done sinning, you should wait until you’re done as well.

          • silence dogood

            You ought to do it sooner than later.

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