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Obama’s Amateur Hour

Syria: When “red lines” lead to red faces.

September 5, 2013

Credit: Hluboki Dzianis -

There are a few golden rules in the business of politics once you reach the major leagues. One of them is them is to never, ever answer a hypothetical question — or make a declaration on an issue that is still a hypothetical. You’ll only box yourself in unnecessarily.

The reason for not doing so is simple: In the art of political leadership, maintaining one’s own room of maneuver is essential. Of course, the still young President Barack Obama violated that golden rule when he spoke of a “red line” of “a whole bunch of chemical weapons being moved around or being utilized” in Syria on August 20, 2012.

One can almost sense that it was way back then that another still youngish and quite accidental President, Syria’s despotic Bashar al-Assad, 48 years of age this month, decided along with his crew to teach his American counterpart a cruel lesson.

In the brutal world of the Middle East, who cares about “red lines” by an overextended America? The crucial fact of U.S. overextension, of course, is not the fruit of Mr. Obama’s labors, but of the reckless Bush/Cheney crew — a fact conveniently suppressed now by most Republican Party commentators.

One cannot put it beyond the utter cynicism and human disregard of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons just to test the United States. Syria’s intentions may be precisely what the United States ostensibly seeks to prevent — turning the entire Middle East region into one massive zone of conflagration.

The irony in all of this, if it can be called such, is that even though the original declaration was made during the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, it’s very unlikely that thus came about as a heat of the moment remark. Barack Obama is a very scripted President.

More likely is that it merely was the end result of an unholy alliance between human rights absolutists and America’s keenest friends of Israel who got the inexperienced President to commit the massive “red line” mistake.

Intended to create a trip wire regarding the American resolve to stand by Israel against a nuclear Iran, the maneuver is now blowing up in the face of everybody involved in bringing about the original declaration by Obama.

The whole situation, albeit thankfully at a smaller scale still, resembles ever more the idiotic automatism of how Europe slid into WWI — because everybody felt they had previously committed to a course of action from which they could not pull back.

But the logic of “globalists” like Roger Cohen, who argues that, because Obama created the red line, the Unites States must now abide by it smacks of the vain and pompous air-headedness of Wilhelm II, the not-so-gifted late 19th century German leader.

Anybody even deigning to have a strategic — and, yes, humanitarian — sense must do better than that. If the question “To what end?” and “To whose real and lasting benefit?” cannot be answered in the affirmative, it is far better to pursue other options than what is now under debate in Washington.

To be sure, arguing that the United States, anno 2013, cannot do better intellectually and strategically than German and Austrian buffoons did anno 1913 is a completely unacceptable choice.


The whole #Syria "red line" situation starts to resemble the idiotic automatism of how Europe slid into WWI.

One cannot put it beyond the Syrian regime to have used chemical weapons just to test the US.

An unholy alliance of human rights absolutists & the DC Israel lobby got Obama to make the "red line" error.

The logic that, because Obama created the red line, the US must now abide by it smacks of the daft Wilhelm II.