As critics said at the time and Secretary of State Kerry finally admitted this past weekend, President Obama’s failure to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria was and remains an American diplomatic disaster.
This failure was prompted by President Obama’s issuing of a “Red Line in the Sand” declaration against chemical weapons. Its usage would, he threatened, result in the overt American intervention in the Syrian civil war. Ignoring this, President Assad in effect thumbed his nose at President Obama, guessing correctly the American leader would not act on his words. Assad was correct and the world noticed.
After failing to act and seeing the harm it did to American diplomatic efforts around the world, President Obama and Secretary Kerry today seek to blame Congress for not authorizing any action by the Chief Executive.
What they have experienced is the fact that this failure of American will has emboldened enemies and frightened friends around the world as to the aims and strength of support by the U.S.
Given these handicaps, it will be up to President-elect Donald J. Trump to reassert American leadership at a time when China, Russia, and ISIS threaten mainland security.
This is another terrible legacy President Obama is leaving to the incoming Chief Executive.
With his signature healthcare initiative on the verge of being emasculated, President Obama is seeking to justify the Nobel Prize for Peace he was awarded at the beginning of his eight year term. With the world a more dangerous place today versus when he took office, it will be a difficult task.
As he rushes to the end of his term, President Obama is seeking to re-write history and to disavow his past actions. But the facts are the facts and include these essential elements.
At the time in 2014 and true to his usual habit of acting alone and without bringing along other national leaders, President Obama tried to stem an oppressive anti-rebel effort with words alone. His administration is rife with examples where his belief that words alone can change events. In this case, the effects of merely mouthing words not only failed to deter an enemy but weakened America.
Having not consulted Congress, President Obama warned against using chemical weapons on Syrian rebels and civilians. Disregarding his words and at the instigation of the Russians, Syrian President Assad acted aggressively killing thousands of people.
With the world watching, once Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons on his people, President Obama failed to follow through on his threat. Again hiding behind words, the President’s reasoning was he needed to get congressional approval for any action. Since they were not consulted beforehand and felt sandbagged, a bipartisan-coalition failed to give him any sort of mandate to act. The plain fact was President Obama had the authority to act but hid behind this subterfuge to do nothing.
What followed then was the brokering of a deal between the U.S. and Russia, which in effect saved President Assad’s repressive regime. Under the de facto agreement, America agreed to temper its support for Assad in return for help against ISIS, the militant Islamic movement.
Faced with the reality of this failure, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are starting the process of trying to re-write history. To his credit, just this past weekend Kerry finally admitted the failure to act was a mistake and was impacting current diplomatic efforts. Taking up the administration’s theme and not surprisingly, Kerry said the fault lay with Congress for not authorizing any action.
There are many lessons to be learned from this critical series of actions by President Obama. But perhaps the most crucial is the need to align Congressional support before the President poses a world challenge. Knowing that Congress is behind the President makes his words more impactful.