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August 23, 2013 9:27 am

Will Syria Be the Graveyard of Obama’s Presidency?

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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President Obama speaks in Cairo in 2009. Photo: Chuck Kennedy.

Rarely has an administration looked as inconsequential as President Barack Obama’s did this week.

A year after Obama warned the Syrian regime that using chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” rebel forces said Wednesday that the army of President Bashar Assad had used poison gas to attack civilians near Damascus, killing hundreds.

The rebels’ allegations have been verified by videos showing victims convulsing and choking, as well as photos of children wrapped in clean white shrouds, lined shoulder to shoulder with their dead faces visible. Foreign governments, such as Israel, have also verified the claims.

Yet, despite the growing body of evidence of chemical weapons attacks, the Obama administration continues to assess, reassess, hem, and haw.

And don’t expect a shift in U.S. policy even if the White House should at last conclude that the Syrian military is using chemical weapons. The lack of a clear, coherent U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria isn’t a mere foreign policy slip.

Indeed, the lethargy that has to date characterized the Obama administration’s Middle East policy is deep, broad, and systemic.

From his famous 2009 ‘Cairo Speech’ to the latest round of peace talks aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama’s policy in the Middle East can be summed as follows: “speak loudly and throw away your stick.”

Behind the soaring rhetoric and lofty ambitions, Obama’s is a remarkably cold-blooded administration that makes decisions based on how foreign policy issues will play at home. As a result, there has long been a proclivity in Obama’s White House towards a foreign policy punctuated by swift, dynamic action that is utterly lacking in continuity or consistency.

However, there is a method to this madness. To understand Obama’s guiding principles with regards to the Middle East, one need only recall the legacy of one of his political mentors, Henry Kissinger. As President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Kissinger’s realpolitik outlook viewed unrest as more dangerous than injustice and a functioning balance of power as more important than human rights.

Realpolitik refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises.

This realism without moral scruples explains the current administration’s approach to Syria, which is to keep the Syrian opposition fighting, but to withhold any assistance that might actually help the rebels win.

This obsession with stability is a hallmark of an Obama White House that aims to significantly reduce the U.S. influence in world affairs, justifying such a retreat by a greater focus on domestic issues.

While the idea of an isolationist United States holds a superficial appeal, it’s neither new, nor has it ever proven successful. Lyndon Johnson sought to concentrate on domestic affairs after 1964, with his Great Society program, as did Bill Clinton in 1992 and George W Bush in 2000. All three were blindsided by reality.

Barack Obama’s value-free foreign policy isn’t responsible for the massacre in Syria. However, the President of the United States must be held accountable for the policies he creates and the messages those policies send. Not only has Obama’s disengaged attitude proved a disservice to American values, it has allowed Middle East autocrats to take full advantage of a feckless U.S. foreign policy, wreaking death and destruction across the region.

For the President of the United States, aloofness isn’t a luxury.

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  • Matt

    Last time he used gas Iran sent him reinforements from Hizbullah, al-Quds and Iraqi militia. They will send more again but in a few months he will use gas again as it does not change the situation on the ground. His allies are getting more and more pulled into Syria. At some point they have to decide if they can continue to send that increased support. If there were not problems with support he would not be using gas. So let them send more Hizbullah in a few months we will be back at the same point of international military intervention.

  • Mark Flesberg


    • John Smith


  • Andrew

    Indeed, this toxic combination of sky high rhetoric and action only for domestic political gain will leave the world a far more dangerous place then it was found in 2008.

  • Reuven

    This is why Israel must destroy Irtan’s nuke program NOW!

  • anthony abela

    To-day on one of the Christian channels a gentleman (who’s name escapes me) was stating that never was there so much mystery surrounding O’Bama’s presidential election. No one seems to know about his youthhood, if he ever served in the services, what college he went to in America or where he lived in America. It’s as if he appeared out of the clouds. Every one knows that the faceless men of Texas elected all the late presidents, but who elected O’Bama?. The mind bogles and I believe the worst is yet to come. American presidents have become over glorified dictators. Just wait till they force people to observe Sunday (to please the Pope) instead of Sabbath. The mark of the beast as prophesised by Daniel.

  • Geoffrey

    Obama, big smile, big talk, attractive wife and kids. Not a clue how to deal with the US economy or foreign affairs, or anything when you think about it. He will go down in history as a failed President. He is better than the dreadful, hateful and dishonest Carter, but only because he made it to a second term which Carter did not.

  • Sandy Brown

    O’Bummer (Obama)needs to keep his mouth shut and mind his own business. Just like our Foreign Secretary William Hague who seems to think it is a good idea to arm the rebels. He has no clue either. We need to mind our own business. Let them sort out their own war.

  • David Polovin

    Is it not amazing how Muslims massacre each other and expect Christians to save them from themselves? Meanwhile their hatred is 360 degrees embracing Christians, Jews and even themselves.

  • Efram Paul

    Unfortunately, concerning this president, aloofness is a lifestyle choice. His lack of humanity and common decency have become more and more apparent as his administration stumbles on. As for holding him accountable, who will do it? A rabid House that is 100% partisan and 0% American? A divided Senate? A court that stays on the sidelines (unless there are people to be disenfranchised, then Scalia and Co become gung ho). The ‘mainstream’ press would not criticize the Grand Mufti of Washington, and the right wing press is so biased as to be disregarded as a version of the National Inquirer. So, who will hold Obama responsible? The answer is, of course, no one. It does not matter what he does. The US is so polarized that half would destroy him whether he is right or wrong, and the other half would ignore his behaviors, again right or wrong.

    If there is still such a thing as history when Obama finally leaves, it will conclude that he is one of the worst presidents of all time. Like his immediate predecessor, he would die before he would protect or defend the constitution. In this case, his affinity for terrorists knows no bounds. That is really the root of his inaction in Syria. How could he condemn any of his Islamist brothers? In Egypt, his hands are tied, because Egypt is too important in the region to sacrifice, even if one of his beloved friends was removed. But in Syria, for him, it is the good guys versus the good guys. What’s our terrorist-in-chief to do?

  • E Pluribus Beagle

    I wouldn’t say the graveyard since virtually all of his presidency has been a silly make believe puppet show.