Obama shows lack of will on Syria

April 28, 2012


— Last year President Obama ordered U.S. intervention in Libya under the grand new doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Moammar Gaddafi was threatening a massacre in Benghazi. To stand by and do nothing “would have been a betrayal of who we are,” explained the president.

In the year since, the government of Syria has more than threatened massacres. It has carried them out. Nothing hypothetical about the disappearances, executions, indiscriminate shelling of populated neighborhoods. More than 9,000 are dead.

Obama has said that we cannot stand idly by. And what has he done? Stand idly by.

Yes, we’ve imposed economic sanctions. But as with Iran, the economic squeeze has not altered the regime’s behavior. Monday’s announced travel and financial restrictions on those who use social media to track down dissidents is a pinprick. No Disney World trips for the chiefs of the Iranian and Syrian security agencies. And they might now have to park their money in Dubai instead of New York. That’ll stop ‘em.

Obama’s other major announcement — at Washington’s Holocaust Museum, no less — was the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board.

I kid you not. A board. Russia flies planeloads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Support a feckless U.N. peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the peacekeepers were summarily executed.) And establish an Atrocities Prevention Board.

With multiagency participation, mind you. The liberal faith in the power of bureaucracy and flowcharts, of committees and reports, is legend. But this is parody.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that we do not have a duty to protect. That foreign policy is not social work. That you risk American lives only when national security and/or strategic interests are at stake, not merely to satisfy the humanitarian impulses of some of our leaders.

But Obama does not make this argument. On the contrary. He goes to the Holocaust Museum to commit himself and his country to defend the innocent, to affirm the moral imperative of rescue. And then does nothing of any consequence.

His case for passivity is buttressed by the implication that the only alternative to inaction is military intervention — bombing, boots on the ground.

But that’s false. It’s not the only alternative. Why aren’t we organizing, training and arming the Syrian rebels in their sanctuaries in Turkey? Nothing unilateral here. Saudi Arabia is already planning to do so. Turkey has turned decisively against Assad. And the French are pushing for even more direct intervention.

Instead, Obama insists that we can only act with support of the “international community,” meaning the U.N. Security Council — where Russia and China have a permanent veto. By what logic does the moral legitimacy of U.S. action require the blessing of a thug like Vladimir Putin and the butchers of Tiananmen Square?

Our slavish, mindless self-subordination to “international legitimacy” does nothing but allow Russia — a pretend post-Soviet superpower — to extend a protective umbrella over whichever murderous client it chooses. Obama has all but announced that Russia (or China) has merely to veto international actions — sanctions, military assistance, direct intervention — and the U.S. will back off.

For what reason? Not even President Clinton, a confirmed internationalist, would acquiesce to such restraints. With Russia prepared to block U.N. intervention against its client, Serbia, Clinton saved Kosovo by summoning NATO to bomb the hell out of Serbia, the Russians be damned.

If Obama wants to stay out of Syria, fine. Make the case that it’s none of our business. That it’s too hard. That we have no security/national interests there.

In my view, the evidence argues against that, but at least a coherent case for hands off could be made. That would be an honest, straightforward policy. Instead, the president, basking in the sanctity of the Holocaust Museum, proclaims his solemn allegiance to a doctrine of responsibility — even as he stands by and watches Syria burn.

If we are not prepared to intervene, even indirectly by arming and training Syrians who want to liberate themselves, be candid. And then be quiet. Don’t pretend the U.N. is doing anything. Don’t pretend the U.S. is doing anything. And don’t embarrass the nation with an Atrocities Prevention Board. The tragedies of Rwanda, Darfur and now Syria did not result from lack of information or lack of interagency coordination, but from lack of will.

—  Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Abdu Omar 5 years, 12 months ago

Chuck, this is an election year and if Obama tries to do anything, he will be the loser because Americans do not want to get involved in another country's problems.

I argue that we must. How can we stand by while people are being killed indiscriminately? We should do something more. Arming rebels is only half the battle. We should bomb Assad with everything we got and try to loosen his iron grip on his military strength. He is a butcher, like his father, and the world can no longer tolerate this kind of oppressive and tyranical regime.

JayhawksandHerd 5 years, 11 months ago

+2. I may be a dirty liberal, but Liberty hit the nail squarely on the head.

Abdu Omar 5 years, 11 months ago

Care to back up any of these claims? I think you are absolutely wrong and in my circles of interest, none of this holds water.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

It's time for you to move in out of the sticks - there's something bad in the water you've been drinking.

camper 5 years, 11 months ago

Arab spring was not promoted by the US or President Obama. It is something that happened. In my opinion, much of it is the result of the internet which is catching on. Younger people are seeing more possibilities. The older regimes are just not as appealing anymore to younger generations. In some ways it is similar to Radio Free Europe.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 11 months ago

Obama has been a disaster for America, the most failed president in modern times. The first quarter GDP numbers this week were dismal. We're laughed at internationally, openly by our enemies and behind our backs by our supposed friends. Obama has been played for a sucker by the Russians ever since he took office. Obama has added more to the national debt in only 3 1/2 years than all of his predecessors combined.

America, wake up. Vote this narcissistic pretender out of office in November, get our economy going once more, and make us respected again internationally.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree, Chuck. We need to annex the world. All of the those foreigners are just getting in our way. We can let Israel annex the parts we don't want.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The Fundraiser in Chief can't be bothered to think about foreign countries that can't help get him another 4 years in the White House.

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

look...it's the no facts troll parade.....what five or six of you.....this must be the only place you feel like a star all of you.......nothing wil be done about syria due to the schizophrenic nature of the gop. Personality one wants to hold up the myth of Democratic weakness so they won't let Obama intervene on that angle.... another one will go the Bush/McCain route and blow more money than a stimulus bill but fact avoiding trolls really care??? and yet another one will want to go the annoitted dummie bush route and go it alone.....why call out Obama when none of you make any sense????

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

oh thats right.....you all were just given the head in a?? award by Bill Maher.... you ignore debt explosions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tax cuts, and Medicaid Part D between 2000 and 2008, now that I've mentioned Bush run from him like cockroaches in the light.....ignorance is a disease and there are a lot of archie bunkers on here suffering from it.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

No spine eh? I guess that explains why THIS President and not the LAST one actually made the order to shoot at the Somali pirates a couple years back (sent them packing pretty quickly) and got Bin Laden. Yeah, too bad this President is spineless.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The Mope has the will to maintain and use an enemies list. "...Richard Nixon's "enemies list" appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers—to jail, to fine, to bankrupt—are also so vast as to require restraint. Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice. Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans." These are people like Paul Schorr and Sam and Jeffrey Fox, investors who the site outed for the crime of having "outsourced" jobs. T. Martin Fiorentino is scored for his work for a firm that forecloses on homes. Louis Bacon (a hedge-fund manager), Kent Burton (a "lobbyist") and Thomas O'Malley (an energy CEO) stand accused of profiting from oil. Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of a home-products firm, is slimed as a "bitter foe of the gay rights movement." These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them...." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304723304577368280604524916.html

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

what does any of the fox recycled nonsense you and yours speak of have anything to do with Syria?

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

Does tuschie's personal and eternal victimhood have anything to do with the rest of the world?

(from a source)

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

what the seven dwarves on here never admit......they never admit Bush created a mess that will take a decade to escape.....they never admit that recycled Reagan garbage didn't work to begin with.....they don't care that obstructing and austerity make the Bush mess last longer and they trot out guns, illegal immigration, voter id, contraceptives, and birther issues because their constituency has the brain power of moths and is attracted to light the same way these simpletons are attracted to the five dummy issues mentioned above. Weiser, if you want free stuff line up with the oil and gas industry to get tax breaks all the while said companies rip you off as your and your genuis party back their theft.

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

checks and balances didn't matter hypocrite when darth cheney was the tie breaking vote and you criminals passed bills through the senate with 51 votes. there is no high ground for sanctimonius simpletons who ignore their own shortcomings and play the whine and change the subject card when confronted with their own lunacy. the Democrats worked for 60 votes in the US Senate when the crooklicans used the Karl "Crooklican" Rove scorched earth policy of 51 votes regardless of how their plans created the current mess. Facts don't matter to arguement baiting trolls.

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

alberto gonzales, scooter libby, bernard kerak, bradley scholzman, steven griles, italia federici, jack abramov, paul wolfowitz, and on and on.......where do you hypocritical clowns want me to stop with the Bushco crooks???

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

none of them got us into two pointless wars with haliburton and other contactors waiting at the trough. oh and I forgot duke cunningham and that stevens character from alaska. half of the ones you listed aren't really criminal except in your character assasinating gop mindset where your actual evidence is soooo thin you use the whisper campaign or the guilty by association campaign with all of the ayres and wright nonsense. by the way if you've never been profiled by the police four times in two states and been treated like you're in the wrong neighborhood as I have then you have no idea what reverend wright or michelle obama meant with their statements about this country. you have the luxury of ignorance and you profess it mightily. I drove through Birmingham Alabama last summer returning with a car I purchased in Atlanta to Lawrence. I also drove past the Lorraine motel. Birmingham is where US Representative John Lewis had his skull cracked open by white cops and also where those four girls died in a klan church bombing, I heard Mr. Lewis speak at the Lied Center a couple of years ago here. I was taken to the spot where Reverend King was assassinated in 1973 in Memphis by my dad. You have no idea what it's like to seek refuge in a church when you're not allowed to meet in public without violence. You have no idea what it's like to look from a Choctaw tribal mound across a highway near Bok Chito, MS, and see a rebuilt Mennonite missionary church that was blown up by the klan when the Choctaws told the FBI where the voting rights workers car was dumped on tribal land. You have the luxury of trolling on history and professing ignorance. White luxury. Use it well.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

On a whim, I decided to read a Merrill post, abandoning my general policy against doing so because Merrill posts are so often not on point. Unfortunately, this post is equally off point as so many of Merrill's others. I would suggest removal since the policy of those in charge is such that a post needs to be at least somewhat about the subject at hand, but suggesting removal is also against my general policy. So, having read Merrill's off point post, I'll now go back to ignoring him/her. And that's too bad since sometimes, rarely, but occasionally, Merrill does make a good point and stays on subject. I just might miss that one. But that's the risk both Merrill and I take, he when so many posts are off topic, I when I choose to ignore him.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

You tend to ramble far and wide yourself. But I'm sure merrill appreciates the scolding, however hypocritical.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 11 months ago

Speaking of off-point, Herr Krauthammer has predictably managed to trash Obama without even scratching the surface of the complexities of the Syrian situation, instead turning it into an issue of male virility with our president. The lack of insight, however, has been matched by the lack of understanding by the comments that followed from the folks to have managed to pile on one factoid after another in an attempt to show that they have a grasp of a situation that is way more nuanced than anyone's words have demonstrated anywhere in this column.

The Alawites, the academics, the Christians, the Sunnis, the Kurds, Russia, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all have little to gain but much to lose in this spreading civil war, and figuring out how to create a coalition that will hold up against the kill-or-be-killed urgency of the current violence has proven to be predictably impossible. If it were just an issue of stopping the violence, this could have been stopped long ago, but the future role of Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and Islamism vs. secularism are all at stake here, combined with a lack of leadership within the opposition all create for a recipe for an unsatisfying, protracted, complex situation where suffering and loss are pretty much guaranteed. A change in US administrations would change nothing about this situation.

But as usual, you can expect no such analysis from Krauthammer, whose second half of his name is his trademark. Syria is just another nail and he's pounding away with his usual shrill but irrelevant posturing.


Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The Mope's campaign people are willing to commit felonies. "...The National Organization for Marriage is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for leaking the organization’s confidential U.S. tax return and then illegally publishing it. The stolen tax return was first published by the Human Rights Campaign and subsequently the Huffington Post. HRC is led by Joe Solmonese, who also serves as a co-chairman of President Obama's reelection committee. In an April 25 letter to Kathryn Keneally, assistant attorney general for DOJ’s tax division, NOM President Brian Brown and Chairman John C. Eastman request an immediate investigation “to identify the person(s) responsible for these illegal actions.” (The letter is published below.) Brown will provide an update on the brewing scandal at The Bloggers Briefing. Breitbart TV, in partnership with The Heritage Foundation, will air it live on Tuesday at noon ET. As previously reported by the Breitbart News Network, NOM’s confidential tax return was first disclosed by the Human Rights Campaign and Huffington Post on March 30 in an attempt to expose the group’s donors. Publication of the material is a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years..." http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/04/28/DOJ-asked-to-Investigate-How-Obama-Campaign

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago


camper 5 years, 11 months ago

By the title, I guessed this was a Krauthammer piece before even clicking.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The ... Fundraiser ...in ... Chief ... has ...the ... will ... to ... beg ... for ... more ... money ... http://polipundit.com/?p=37897

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