‘Credibility’? It’s Gone. It’s Not Coming Back Until January 2017 at the Earliest.
National Review’s editors on Syria:
Credibility can seem an elusive commodity and one not worth firing shots over, but it is the coin of the realm in international relations, especially for a great power. . . . If we don’t act in this case, after all this windup, Iran and Hezbollah will take note of how little our admonitions to not acquire or use weapons of mass destruction really mean. We can’t know exactly what would come of our self-inflicted humiliation, but it would be nothing good. For that reason, we would vote “yes” on the authorization, although we think reasonable people can disagree, and we urge Congress to push the president to enunciate a Syria strategy beyond punishing it for its chemical-weapons use.
Here’s the thing: Even if we launch some cruise missiles and blow up some Syrian military buildings . . . our credibility is in tatters, anyway. Everybody knows our president makes promises he can’t keep, threats he doesn’t intend to carry out, bluffs and then gets mad when others call his bluff.
President Obama is who we thought he was. He is who we said he was. And we let him off the hook! (storms away from podium)
Here’s MSNBC creating a Facebook graphic, spotlighted over at Ace of Spades:
Except that you did set a red line, Mr. President. And we know “the world” didn’t set that red line, because “the world,” with the exception of Turkey and France, has decided they’re not willing to do anything militarily to punish Assad.
You notice Obama and Kerry keep insisting other nations are with us because they’ve issued statements denouncing Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Let me be clear: When a brutal dictator uses poison gas to kill hundreds of people, including children, issuing a denunciatory statement is almost literally the least you can do.
Lost credibility? We have a president and administration who couldn’t persuade the United Kingdom’s parliament to support unmanned airstrikes against a dictator who used nerve gas. It sounds like a joke. Diplomatically, that’s a six-inch putt, to put it in terms the president can appreciate. This is the salesmanship equivalent of selling beer in Ireland.
This credibility crisis goes beyond Syria, however, and extends to the whole Arab Spring, for which Obama seemed all too pleased to take credit not terribly long ago. He demanded Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and quick elections in Egypt, which turned a stable American ally into a barely-contained disaster, and then has vacillated ever since on how to handle the crisis. Obama then led a NATO intervention in Libya while claiming not to want regime change, but ended up decapitating the Qaddafi regime anyway. That replaced a brutal dictatorship that was still cooperating with the West on counter-terrorism into a failed state that has allowed for a rapid expansion of radical Islamist terror networks through the whole region.
The NR editors wrote, “the Obama policy of passivity has, so far, proved a disaster.” Even if the Tomahawks started flying, Obama’s inclination towards passivity will probably return with a vengeance, the moment everything went wrong. (Reminder: We still haven’t arrested, killed, or as far as we know, even pursued anyone for the attack in Benghazi.) It’s unlikely that Obama is transforming his entire worldview as a result of this painful experience.
He’s caught between a war he doesn’t really want to fight, and his fear of being exposed as a guy who draws red lines but doesn’t enforce them. So he’s splitting the difference by pledging to bomb Syria, but not that badly. That won’t restore our national credibility.