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Sunday, October 22, 2017

This reluctance is also why—assuming the Russian, French, and Syrian agreement holds up—that political damage to President Obama for his hesitant, crawfishing approach to the Syrian crisis is apt to prove more limited than Beltway drama critics think. Obama’s ambivalence is widely shared.

As Michael Tomasky points out, Republican hypocrisy has been shocking even by GOP standards. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney took a hawkish line, proposing to arm Syrian rebels and to conduct covert operations against the Assad regime. As recently as April, putative 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio chided Obama’s passivity.

“It is in the vital national security interest of our nation to see Assad’s removal,” he insisted. Regime change!

Last week Rubio voted no in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If President Obama’s for it, GOP opportunists are against it. The end.

That said, the irony of Russian president Vladimir Putin appearing to rescue Obama from a political trap built by George W. Bush and baited by his own bluffing rhetoric about “red lines” would be almost disabling but for the horrors of nerve gas.

A deadly anachronism, gas weapons don’t work when it rains or the wind blows. They’re essentially useless in modern combat. Their appeal to a tyrant like Bashar al Assad is as an indiscriminate means of genocide, exterminating defenseless civilians like insects. Not to mention farm animals, pets, birds—basically anything with a nervous system.

Historical memories of the horrors of gas barrages during WWI are particularly strong among the Russians and French. On this subject, there really is an international community.

This too: however indecisive President Obama appeared to Beltway cognoscenti, he treated the American people like adults and honored the Constitution.

“I put [the question] before Congress,” Obama explained “because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States.”

Genuine democracy—what a concept.

AFP Photo/Evan Vucci

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