…that’s where American prestige and foreign policy have gone.
In case you’re not aware of what has happened, the gist is this…
President Obama on Monday took a sharp turn away from his “red line” threat to Syria on the eve of taking his case to the American people, saying in an interview with Fox News that he’s open to negotiations on an alternative plan that could avert a military strike…
“We will pursue this diplomatic track,” Obama told Fox News. “I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a non-military way.”…
“I welcome the possibility of the development,” he said. “We should explore and exhaust all avenues of diplomatic resolution to this.”
He said the U.S. should be able to get a “fairly rapid sense” of how serious the proposal is. “We are going to be immediately talking to the Russians and looking for some actual language they might be proposing,” he said.
The diplomatic track in question is a pretty laughable offer by Vladimir Putin to put Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control in exchange for an American promise not to bomb Assad.
And that offer came about in concert with an even more laughable statement by our Secretary of Insufferable Windbaggery John Kerry in the way of an ultimatum to Assad that he give up his WMD to make this issue go away…
Hours earlier, in London, Secretary of State John F. Kerry sketched out a transfer-of-control scenario similar to the Russian proposal, then dismissed it, after being asked by a reporter whether there was anything that Assad could do to avoid an attack. “Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,” Kerry said. “But he isn’t about to.”
Kerry also sparked criticism by commenting that any U.S. strike would be “an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”
It gets better. Kerry had offered up his statement AFTER he had talked to the Russians…
Kerry learned of the Russian proposal before it was made, when he received a call from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about two hours into a flight to Washington from London, a senior State Department official said. Lavrov said Russia was “willing to engage” on the issue of weapons inspections and surrender of Syria’s chemical stocks, and he made specific reference to the possibility of U.S. action.
Kerry “expressed serious skepticism and said the United States was ‘not going to play games,’ ” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the conversation. While Kerry told Lavrov the United States would consider a serious proposal, the official made clear that he did not consider the Russian statement Monday to be one. Kerry “also made clear that [the Russian statement] cannot or will not be a reason to delay our efforts with Congress to authorize the president’s proposal” for a military strike, and he cautioned the Russians not to portray their gambit as a “joint U.S.-Russian proposal,” the official said, adding: “We have seen no details; we have seen no ‘proposal.’ ”
Kerry “still feels it is not possible” to arrange an adequate inspection and verifiable destruction of Syrian weapons in any reasonable time frame, the official said. The Obama administration had “batted around” in the past the idea of an ultimatum to Syria on giving up its chemical weapons, but that the idea had died internally when it was judged too complicated and likely to provoke Syrian subterfuge and delay, the official noted.
Lavrov had also previously discussed the idea in conversations with Kerry, including a telephone call as recently as Thursday, the official said, but never in the context of the proposed U.S. military action.
So Lavrov offers up Assad’s chemical stockpile, which Kerry scoffs at as a path to peace – and anyway, it’s too late to make this happen with inspectors and so forth.
But he throws it out there publicly as something which doesn’t have legs because America is on the brink of war (except Kerry has said for a week that bombing Syria won’t cause a war, something Assad went on American TV today promising isn’t true) and Harry Reid is about to have a Senate vote in favor of shooting peace-missiles at Syria.
And because he throws the idea of the Syrians giving up their sarin gas on the table as something which would prevent the peace-missile attack, but-it’s-not-worth-discussing-because-that-would-never-happen, the Russians seize the initiative and publicly present it as a real possibility.
No sooner does Putin jump on Kerry’s mistake but Assad follows with “Well, yeah – I wasn’t the one who used sarin in the first place, so sure, you can have all my stuff.”
From there, the White House has little choice but to act like the Russian offer is a legitimate way out of the mess. So Kerry gets thrown under the bus and now Reid’s Senate vote is delayed.
And Obama is forced to wave a diplomatic white flag in Moscow’s direction, while calling it something else.
Within hours, top White House and State Department officials, while sounding cautious, were touting this new alleged Russian cooperation and, significantly, claiming credit on behalf of Barack Obama for creating the environment that led to this potential breakthrough.
A State Department spokesman said the administration was giving the Russian proposal “a hard look” and Tony Blinken, one of Obama’s top advisers on national security issues, also noted the development in his remarks from the podium at the White House press briefing. A short time later, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that she’d “just come from a meeting with President Obama where we discussed the latest developments” on Syria. Clinton then sounded an optimistic note about the Russian proposal and even allowed herself to imagine Assad’s compliance, saying it would be “an important step.”
Even as top administration officials offered caveats about these developments, their coordinated responses suggest the administration is laying the groundwork for declaring victory.
Clinton said: “It is very important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria’s stockpiles only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “So I think it’s important to keep in mind the context under which this Russian statement and this Syrian statement is happening, that this is only happening in the context of a threat of US military action.”
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, tweeted: “US will review Russian proposal. We want Syrian CW under intl control. Important that this only proposed bc credible threat of mil action.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said: “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal is because of the US threat of military action.”
To sum up, Obama is now going to say that he forced Assad to give up chemical weapons that he (assumedly) killed 1,400 people with while leaving in place the weapons he’s killed 100,000 people with because of a threat of military force his own Secretary of State called “unbelievably small.” He’s going to do that because he’s going to take seriously a Russian offer to put those weapons under “international” control – and in all likelihood ends any Western participation in the Syrian civil war or American influence in the region.
Once that deal is cut, Syria becomes firmly planted with the Russian sphere of influence, and that means the Saudis and Qataris and Turks who are involved with the Syrian rebels will now be in a position to deal with Moscow rather than Washington if they want to resolve the situation. And that insures the next Syrian regime will be as anti-American as the current one is.
Which might have been inevitable, but that was a reason not to waste effort and prestige by getting involved in the conflict in the first place and especially not to begin a political debate in this country which had the effect of proving to the world that the president didn’t have the will of the American people on his side.
This might be the single largest bungle of foreign policy since the Bay of Pigs. It’s so bad as to make one wonder if it isn’t intentionally designed to diminish American influence around the globe.
Meanwhile, Putin looks like he’s next up for the Nobel Peace Prize since he’s the guy who averted World War III, all while preserving his military weapons client, holding onto his Mediterranean naval base and stopping the natural gas pipeline the Saudis and Qataris want to build to Turkey for export to European markets.
Unless, as mentioned above, the Russians are able to cut a deal for that pipeline to make it worth their while.
Either way, Putin is about to get everything he wants where Syria is concerned, including all of the international prestige and credit, while Obama and the United States are sent away like a dog swatted with a newspaper.
And Obama is left bragging that his tough talk and threats of military strikes are what brought about the peace on Russia’s terms.
American decline is no longer a theory or a question. It’s now a demonstrable fact. What is now a question is whether this was what “fundamental transformation” or “more flexibility after the election” was all about.