Opinion: Syria reveals Obama incompetence

September 13, 2013


— The president of the United States takes to the airwaves to urgently persuade the nation to pause before doing something it has no desire to do in the first place.

Strange. And it gets stranger still. That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?

Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.

He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point, the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demanded that any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.

Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the U.S. above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.

And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to The New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — aka “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.

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


Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

The" foreign policy" below demonstrates incompetence galore for which Charles Krauthammer has endorsed with several well known war mongers. This cannot create peace. Has peace ever been the end result of mass occupation by another military power?

"Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination” (Very dangerous position which threatens OUR freedoms and the nations security) http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Project_for_the_New_American_Century

Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

• we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global protection for Wal-Mart,Oil,Coca Cola,Pepsico,diamonds,gold etc etc etc

• we need to strengthen our ties to dictator regimes friendly to American interests and Bogus values;

• we need to promote the cause of the political right wing and economic rape for corp USA abroad;

• we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in forcing others to accept our corrupt principles.

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and immoral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the extortions of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness no matter how many innocent USA soldiers die.

The Plan



Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

Henry Kissinger once said controlling a world oil supply can control other nations. Controlling a world food supply controls people. Then again Henry also supported military dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

Chilean President Salvador Allende—Latin America’s first popularly elected socialist president—was dead as a result of a military coup allegedly backed by the CIA. He was replaced by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, whose regime killed, tortured, and exiled tens of thousands of Chileans. For the next 17 years, Chileans lived under an economically prosperous dictatorship that showed little regard for human rights.

A tidbit I learned by way of media news this week.


Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

Thank goodness we have an ex-KGB former Soviet dictator to prevent our Nobel Peace Prize Award winner from declaring war.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 9 months ago

Facts: He was never going to declare war.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

What was all that about some red line?

Seth Peterson 4 years, 9 months ago

It was something about chemical weapons, which are in the process of being relinquished.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

Is the Red Line the name of the train where they will relinquish the chemical weapons?

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Read the constitution. He can't declare war. Conservatives talk about the constitution all the time, but they are seem pretty clueless about what is in it, except the 2nd Amendment.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

The president has 90 days to fight a war before congress votes on it. Ever heard of the war powers act?

LOL, clueless.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Well, to be precise, he can use military force for 90 days without Congress declaring war.

But, it takes Congress to declare war.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

LOL, OK, Putin prevented him from declaring a police action. Whatever you call it, we won't be killing on behalf of AlQuaida in Syria and that is good.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

And the GOP extremists are just bouncing around everywhere. First, they criticize him for being weak and not attacking Syria. Then he decides it's time to attack, and all of a sudden the war mongers become peaceniks. Then there might be a diplomatic solution, so it's back to being warmongers, and Obama is weak. I'm wondering if Obama is just messing with their heads. I know I've been entertained watching them. The only sad thing is their followers just don't see the hypocrisy, and of course, changing your stance every time Obama does something has nothing to do with racism, of course not. They would do that with any democrat. Not!

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the right just doesn't want America fighting on behalf of AlQuaida.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Ok, turn off the Beck. Obama hasn't wanted to get involved for a long time, because there were no clear right or wrong rebel group, even though the guy you wanted as president has been chomping at the bit to support the rebels, and was successful getting some support for the rebels. Now he is backing down. I don't thing we should get involved in a civil war, but at least my opinion doesn't change with the winds. If I agree with a conservative about something, I don't suddenly change my mind. I even agreed with what Bush wanted to do about illegal immigration, until his party shut him down. I would have supported him. I've always thought we shouldn't get involved in a civil war, and should have learned that lesson a long time ago. However, when Obama didn't want to get involved conservatives wanted to. Now they don't. I haven't suddenly changed my mind about war, because conservatives have suddenly become peaceniks. But I'm not going to let the hypocrisy pass without comment.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

Photo Essay Thursday, September 12, 2013 | By Patrick Witty @patrickwitty

"What follows is a harrowing series of photographs of Islamic militants publicly executing, by decapitation, a young Syrian in the town of Keferghan, near Aleppo, on August 31, 2013.

Because of the danger in reporting inside Syria, it was not possible to confirm the identity or political affiliation of the victim. Nor are we certain about the motivation of his killers. One eyewitness who lives in the area and was contacted by TIME a week after the beheadings said that the executioners were from ISIS, an Al-Qaeda franchise operating in Syria and Iraq."

I won't post the entire link, but you can find it if you look. It starts like:


Yes, Time magazine. Is there a Beck at time magazine?

My guy in 2012 has this to say:

"No one disagrees that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is despicable, and the results tragic. However, those facts alone do not make going to war either justified or even a good idea. And while the Administration can parse words all day long, launching missiles or dropping bombs constitutes going to war.

There is no clear U.S. interest in what is, in reality, a civil war on the other side of the globe. Likewise, there is nothing to indicate at this time that intervening in that civil war will benefit anyone -- either here in America or in Syria.

The consequences of our military actions in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan should be a lesson to President Obama and others who appear determined to act without any meaningful strategic or national defense justification."


Seth Peterson 4 years, 9 months ago

Good thing this is titled under opinion, because there are no facts or journalism included. This article is a lot like Fox, they don't call it news (because it isn't), then try to present misinformation in a dishonest way to lead viewers to believe and act like it is.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 9 months ago

Presidents make mistakes. However they should not say things in public if they can't follow through. Who would have a thought a KGB LTC is calling the shots now. Let us see what happens. Maybe something useful will come out of this. Do we want Assad out or not, what is in our national interests?

Paul R Getto 4 years, 9 months ago

Killing more mothers and kids to prove we are the moral compass for the world. What a concept.

Armstrong 4 years, 9 months ago

Mr K you're about 5 years late with this. Barry has been highlighting his incompetence since day one in office. Syria is just the latest in the ongoing saga of this do nothing "leader".

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

Just hope the house stays right so he can continue to do nothing.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 9 months ago

Ah, another dishonest post spreading misinformation.

msezdsit 4 years, 9 months ago

Chuck, why not save time and just print in your article "I hate obama" because trying to find a new way to say that every column shows your incompetence and lack of imagination.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

Knew this was a Krauthammer piece before I even opened.

We have a President who will not let his "red line" mandate cloud his judgment. We have a president who is outraged by the chemical attacks, but also wants to seek diplomatic means. He does not care so much as where the diplomacy comes. I don't care if it comes from Russia or if it comes from Santa Claus. Diplomacy is far better option.

I am glad President Obama is thinking about diplomacy and is using all sound judgment available before using a military strike and dropping bombs. This shows that he knows the consequences of a military strike and the severity of it.....and that it should be used only as a last resort. He is showing an open mind. Open to diplomacy. I am proud of our President.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Really, if he did nothing, he'd be attacked for being "soft". If he stuck to his original plan without Congressional approval, he be attacked for over-reaching his authority. And, when he consults Congress, and abides by their decision, while pushing for a diplomatic resolution, he gets attacked for that.

Seems like there's nothing at all he could do without being attacked by CK and others like him, doesn't it?

deec 4 years, 9 months ago

Seems like there's nothing at all he could do without being attacked by CK and others like him, doesn't it?

He could die. They might like that.

jonas_opines 4 years, 9 months ago

Nah, they'd criticize that too because Biden would be in charge. It would be a leftist conspiracy of some sort or another.

(It's almost like their paychecks hinge on hating anybody who's not a line-step Republican, or something)

Tom Huyser 4 years, 9 months ago

He wont let his red line mandate cloud his judgment? Just a week or so ago he said he could act WITHOUT approval from congress.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

And he can.

Presidents have the authority under the War Powers Act to engage in military force without Congressional declaration of war - they have to inform Congress within 48 hours, and they can act for 60-90 days without a Congressional declaration of war.

But, my point is clear or should be - there's virtually nothing Obama can do without being attacked by those intent on attacking him regardless of what he does or doesn't do.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

Charles K is the last person I am going to listen to when it comes to foreign policy. These guys were wrong as can be about Iraq and Afghanistan and are continually wrong. Pat Roberts, Gingrich, all of them.

For proof, here is a clip of Charles K in 2003 on WMD and going into Iraq. If I am not mistaken, wasn't Pat Roberts involved in intelligence failures regarding WMD? How do these people still have jobs?


If you need further proof. I implore you to look-up "Newt Gingrich Libya Flip Flop", on YouTube. These guys are dishonest liars who peddle propaganda.

moliemolie 4 years, 9 months ago

we got what we wanted without dropping one bomb. only in conservo-fox-world is that incompetence.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 9 months ago

The use of the word incompetence to describe what Obama is doing with regard to Syria must be an example of Right-Speak.

Just as with regard to the 2nd amendment and "well-regulated" meaning "unregulated", maybe Cabbagemalet here is using "incompetence" to mean just the opposite. It would certainly fit with the facts of Obama's Syria policy so far

It does stink getting schooled by Obama, though. As Cabbagemallet knows very well.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

Nope. Maybe the former KBG thug came to the table because of pressure. Pressure of a possible military strike. So far not one bomb dropped and Russia is working as part of a coalition to confiscate these weapons. How is this bad?

This is the line we will get from the FOX propaganda network. They are gonna say Obama and the US are weak and indecisive. They are more concerned with image rather than results, and of course trying to make our president look bad. I see it coming a mile away.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago


And if he had simply acted quickly and "decisively" by using military force, they'd criticize him for that as well.

Also, if he had simply waited for Congress to decide, regardless of what they decided, he would be to blame somehow.

James Minor 4 years, 9 months ago

The President did the right thing by letting the world know that this should not be tolerated. If America takes another position and doesn't strike Syria that is good. It shows he is listening to the people at the same time letting us know what he thinks. Do you think President Bush would have done that? How is the President incompetent? Syria is aware that we mean business and want Assad out. Russia also knows that they can't play with the US. What are they going to bring in defense of Syria - old boats and a beaten down army that will defect faster than a Cuban baseball team? This editorial is lame. The President brought the issue into the world's eye and showed concern, and it is now on the UN to take a step forward and do something!

Mike Ford 4 years, 9 months ago

it's hilarious how much conservatives will do mental and verbal gymnastics to find ways to criticize President Obama's diplomacy actions. People with patience eventually get what is needed. I've witnessed the draw the guns cowboy mentality since W and I love the silence when the B word is spoken. George W. Bush screwed up for the ages. He couldn't speak in public and listened to his handlers who got us in a world of stink that we're just now exiting. Gotta love the flip flopping old couple of Lindsey Graham and John McCain. If that's an example of conservative consistency then I want to know where the water in the desert is.

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