The Corner

Obama’s Cynical Game on Syria

Walter Russell Mead has an absolutely devastating essay on Obama’s cynical ploy to use Syrian refugees as a partisan pawn. An excerpt:

 Not even President Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq has been as destructive for Europe or as damaging to the Transatlantic alliance as President Obama’s hard-hearted and short-sighted Syria policy. ​The flood of refugees is shaking the European Union to its core, and Obama’s policy has cemented perceptions among many around the world that the United States is no longer the kind of useful ally that it once was. France didn’t even bother to invoke NATO’s Article 5 after the Paris attacks; nobody really thinks of President Obama as the man you want at your side when the chips are down.

The collapse of President Obama’s Syria policy is hardly a partisan issue. He has repeatedly overruled his own national-security officials, top diplomats, and advisors, many of whom have been horrified by the President’s passivity in the face of onrushing disaster. His abrupt policy switch on airstrikes left many senior Democrats who had supported his apparent determination to enforce his “red line” against Assad twisting in the wind.

To think that conspicuous moral posturing and holy posing over a symbolic refugee quota could turn President Obama from the goat to the hero of the Syrian crisis is absurd. Wringing your hands while Syria turns into a hell on earth, and then taking a token number of refugees, can be called many things, but decent and wise are not among them. You don’t have to be a xenophobe or a racist or even a Republican to reject this President’s leadership on Syria policy. All you need for that is common sense and a moral compass.

And it’s worse. The Obama Administration’s extreme caution about engagement in Syria led it to insist on such a thorough process of vetting potential Syrian allies that years of effort and tens of millions of dollars resulted in only a paltry handful of people being found acceptable to receive American weapons and training. The refugee vetting process won’t be nearly this thorough; it’s almost certain that the President’s program will result in settling people in the United States who could not be certified to fight for the United States in Syria. Given our gun laws, uncertified Syrians living in the United States will soon have the opportunity to get weapons that the United States government would refuse to give them in Syria. To millions of Americans, this is a double standard they can neither understand nor accept. To call people troubled by these concerns racists and xenophobes is to divide and polarize this country in ways that will cost us all dearly down the road. We have enough hate, enough radicalism, enough mutual misunderstanding and distrust between left and right in America as it is. The President is adding to that distrust, and doing it in a particularly ugly and damaging way.

If President Obama really had the superior moral insight and wisdom that he believes makes him so much more humane and far-seeing than the ignorant rednecks who keep on opposing him, he would have approached the refugee issue with less arrogance and more self-awareness. It is not given to the sons (or even to the daughters) of mortals to be right about everything all the time; Presidents make mistakes, even in the Middle East. A little humility, a little acknowledgement of responsibility, a little self-reflection could go a long way.

For no one, other than the Butcher Assad and the unspeakable al-Baghdadi, is as responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria as is President Obama. No one has committed more sins of omission, no one has so ruthlessly sacrificed the well-being of Syria’s people for his own ends, as the man in the White House. In all the world, only President Obama had the ability to do anything significant to prevent this catastrophe; in all the world no one turned his back so coldly and resolutely on the suffering Syrians as the man who sits in the White House today—a man who is now lecturing his fellow citizens on what he insists is their moral inferiority before his own high self-esteem.

Read the whole thing, as we used to say.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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