President Barack Obama rose to prominence and power on the wings of his inspirational rhetoric. It is only fitting that his soaring rhetoric will lead to his own Icarus-like rise and tragic fall.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday night, Obama seemed to argue for two conflicting approaches at the same time.
On one hand, Obama made a methodical argument for military action. He explained why the world shunned chemical weapons, pointed to evidence that the Assad regime used them, and argued that it is in the national security interest for the U.S. to respond to that attack.
Obama also claimed that while he had resisted calls for military action in the country's civil war, the situation "profoundly changed" after the Assad regime "gassed to death" hundreds of people last month. He said a "targeted military strike" would not embroil the U.S. in another war, and vowed he would "not put American boots on Syria."
Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver," Obama said.
In other words, Obama was addressing the American people and American Congress, for a call to limited military action.
But, on the other hand, at the same time, and almost in the same breath, Obama spoke eloquently about his securing a way to take this military option off the table, in favour of an improbable Putin-driven diplomatic initiative.
That is, due to the good offices of Russian President Putin, Syrian President Assad, has agreed to willingly identify and hand over to Russia and a friendly UN group of inspectors (note no Americans will be part of this team) all of Syria's chemical weapons.
This Putin proposal is beyond reason and belief. But more about that later in this piece.
Michael Gerson of the Washington Post nailed the vacuity and emptiness of Obama's internally contradictory speech when he asserted in a recent column:
"The resulting message was boldly mixed. Assad is a moral monster -- who is now our partner in negotiations. The consequences would be terrible 'if we fail to act' -- which now seems the most likely course. America 'doesn't do pinpricks' -- especially when it does not do anything. 'The burdens of leadership are often heavy' -- unless they are not assumed."
This strangely ambiguous speech seems to have further undermined Obama's credibility, with Congress and the American people. And internationally, Obama's speech and his poorly-planned action of jumping to accept Putin's chemical weapons gambit, seems to have led to many consequences unfavourable to the U.S. and its allies.
Gerson further notes in his column:
"Vladimir Putin offered Obama an escape, which he gratefully took. But there are implicit costs. An American military strike is off -- something Putin thought inevitable just a few weeks ago. Russia's Syrian client, Bashar Assad, stays in power. The Syrian opposition is effectively hung out to dry. Russia gains a position of influence in the Middle East it has not held since Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of Egypt, allowing Moscow to supply proxies such as Syria and Iran with weapons while positioning itself as the defender of international law and peace. Iran sees that America is a reluctant power, with a timid and polarized legislature, that can be easily deflected from action by transparent maneuvers."
It is fascinating to note that some of the most vociferous critics of Obama are former liberal admirers of Obama. Bill Keller in a recent New York Times column is brutal in his criticism of Obama being played by the wily Putin.
Keller, referring to Putin clearly outmaneuvering the feckless Obama, writes:
"While seeming to help President Obama out of a political fix, he has made the American President seem even more the captive of events. A president who once seemed sure-footed, combining prudent diplomacy with the occasional bold stroke (killing Osama bin Laden) now stands accused of being, as his Texan predecessor might have put it, all hat and no cattle. He vowed to bring the Benghazi killers to justice, to stand against the return of military rule in Egypt, to arm the rebels in Syria, to enforce a red line against weapons of mass destruction. So far, he has accomplished none of the above."
As to the probability of Syria handing over its chemical weapons to a UN sponsored team for destruction in the middle of a civil war, the odds are next to nil. The practical obstacles to success are overwhelming .
Also Putin is demanding that any UN Resolution on this matter omit recourse to a military solution if Syria does not comply.
And that should not fly with the U.S. and its allies, unless Obama is so desperate that he will do anything to cater to Putin in order to avoid a military strike option against Syria.
The thuggish Putin thinks that Obama and the U.S. are so weakened, that he had the chutzpah to pen a highly critical Op Ed Piece in the New York Times, criticizing, among other things, America's view of itself as exceptional and unique. And criticizing hypocritically the U.S. for contemplating a military action, when Russia has been supplying arms to Assad to assist his regime in killing and gassing 100,000 of his own people.
According to liberal CNN on Wednesday night, all the panellists agreed that Putin's Op Ed piece in the NY Times, was Putin's way of flipping the bird to Obama and the American people.
This is what happens to the U.S. when its President leads from behind, or worse.