The spectacular flameout of President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East should be a teachable moment — not only for all Americans but most especially for the president himself. For probably the first time in his life someone is about to say no to him. And not just no, but hell, no.
Unless he backs away from the upcoming votes in Congress — themselves now in doubt – regarding the use of force in Syria, Obama is likely to be dealt a humiliating political blow, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to it. He’s been so used to being treated with kid gloves all along his glide path from Punahou to Occidental to Columbia to Harvard Law to the Illinois state senate to the U.S. senate to the presidency that adversity is practically unknown to him. He’s never been tested; he’s never been forged. He’s the perfect expression of the leftist ascendancy, which prizes credentialism and social contacts over accomplishment, theory over experience, words over deeds, “gestures” — some of them “incredibly small” – over accomplishments, and moralism over morality. A defeat in both the House and the Senate would help explain to the president that he’s not the boss of us, but rather the chief executive of a democratic Republic, bound by oath to faithfully execute the laws of the land and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.
I’ve made my position clear, here, here and here, which is why I’ve disagreed with many of my friends and colleagues on the right. The credibility of the United States is not inextricably linked to the credibility of Barack Obama, and even if it were true that a no vote would cripple him politically for the next three years, why is that a bad thing? The country survived the final two years of the second Wilson administration perfectly well. Both Vladimir Putin and the mullahs in Iran have long since made up their minds about Obama and know they have nothing to fear from him, no matter what he does in Syria. Indeed, Putin is now toying with him, having seized on John Kerry’s thoughtless gambit and swiped a rook off the chessboard:
An unexpected Russian proposal for Syria to avert a U.S. military strike by transferring control of its chemical weapons appeared to be gaining traction Tuesday, as Syria embraced it, France said it would draft a U.N. Security Council resolution to put the plan into effect, and China and Iran voiced support.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said bringing the proposal to the Security Council would enable the world to judge the intentions of Russia and China, which until now have blocked efforts to sanction Syria for any actions during its 21 / 2-year-long civil conflict.
In any case, no good can come from an improvised military intervention as poorly thought-out as this one, or one that accomplishes exactly nothing in the Great Game of international great-power politics. But what the second term so far has taught us is that Obama doesn’t really understand politics — he understands elections and how to win them (“by any means necessary”), which is not the same thing. And that’s what the Syrian vote was originally intended to be about: tarring the GOP with “obstructionism” and “isolationism” in order to jockey for advantage in the congressional elections of 2014 — which is the only thing that matters to Obama. A re-taking of the House is vital to complete his eight years of “fundamental transformation,” and then the Democrats can pass the baton on to another Alinskyite, Hillary Clinton.
The GOP leadership, such as it is, ought not to fall for the head-fake: This is all about Obama, not the country. One man’s ego, dressed up in the flag. A stern rebuke, in the form of a crushing no vote, should it come to that, would serve to put him on notice that they’ve caught on to his game, help restore the balance between Congress (Article One, for those scoring at home) and the president (Article Two), and prep the electoral battlespace for elections just over a year away. It’s a win-win-win . . . which is exactly why they won’t do it.
Of course, this could all be moot by tonight. With the White House and Foggy Bottom making things up as they go along, every day is Anything Can Happen Day.