Ineptitude at the Top | The Weekly Standard


When President Obama abruptly called off the bombing strike on Syria and decided to seek the approval of Congress, he surprised no one more than French president François Hollande. France, the only country set to join the United States in the raid, was left in the lurch. Hollande was humiliated and isolated. Now, if an assault on Syria occurs, France is unlikely to participate.

Several days after aborting the raid, Obama traveled to Sweden, then to Russia for the G-20 summit. At both stops, he sought support for serious action against Syria. He failed. Meanwhile, in Congress, where support for punishing Syria for its use of poisonous gas really mattered, opposition to Obama’s plan swelled in his absence, notably among Democrats.

Last week in London, Secretary of State John Kerry carelessly answered a question by saying Syria could avert a bombing attack by turning over all its chemical weapons to “the international community.” But Syrian president Bashar al-Assad “isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done,” Kerry added. That same day, Russia and Syria said Assad would indeed do it, prompting negotiations that could last for weeks and make a raid far less likely to occur.

Notice the thread running through these episodes. In each one, Obama and his administration sought one thing and got another. They produced unintended consequences. In domestic policy, this would merely be unfortunate. In carrying out national security policy, unintended consequences are dangerous at best, catastrophic at worst.

Yet Obama and Kerry seemed oblivious. Their grasp of the Syria crisis was incomplete. The situation appeared to overwhelm them. They acted like greenhorns. “None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it,” retired Gen. Robert Scales, the former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, wrote in the Washington Post. The same is true of the president.

via Ineptitude at the Top | The Weekly Standard.

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