9/2/13

Words fail me—nothing that I can say can even come close to describing the shameful and discreditable personal performance of Obama on the matter of Syria. It has reached levels of a depth of disgrace and ineptitude that could not have been imagined and are unprecedented in world history, and that is saying a lot for this “Carter-like” president.

I said many times that the most striking feature of Obama’s presidency is his lack of leadership abilities. He is a great orator and campaigner, but he is no leader by any stretch. I also made reference at times to his lack of executive abilities. Again—zero. He never was an executive until he landed the most difficult and intense executive position in the world. He has no clue.

At least when it comes to domestic policy and issues, he has a vision. I agree with almost NOTHING of his vision. I think he is badly wrong but at least he has SOMETHING. He is an ideological zealot, which I think is bad, but at least he has convictions and tries in his maladroit way to get his agenda pushed through.

However, when it comes to foreign affairs, to matters of national security—this is amateur hour. The man is worse than inept. He is a ditherer and if this was not a public forum, I would have used a different term, crude, but in this case, absolutely correct to describe someone who has no ability to make a decision. He is totally and utterly unfit for the job that he holds. SHAMEFUL!

A few specific comments:

1. Hypocrisy
I fail to understand the distinction that Obama makes and following him, so many other people do too, between 110,000 men, women, and children, mostly civilians and innocents who died from rifle bullets, artillery shells, and airplane bombs, to those 1,400 who died from a chemical agent. Can somebody PLEASE explain the difference to me? There is a convention against using chemical weapons—granted. But there are also conventions against killing civilian populations, let alone one’s own countrymen. Please explain to me why is it different how you die? ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DEAD PEOPLE! This is beyond comprehension.

2. Public Opinion Polls
In their usual disgraceful and unprofessional way of handling ANYTHING, the media makes hay of the significant opposition of the public to military intervention as displayed by the polls:

  • One can sway polls to wherever result one wants, depending on the way one presents the question. If asked, “Do you want another disastrous expensive bloody intervention like Iraq?” of course, most people will say no. If asked, however, “Do you think that Assad should be punished for killing innocent civilians, children, and others?” most people will say yes.
  • How do you expect the public to react when they see a performance by the leader of the free world that is appalling and ignominious? I, too, would not want to go to war if this was my commander-in-chief. The man is as persuasive as a damp squid!
  • Finally and most importantly, since when does the leader of the free world run the national security of this country based on polls? What the . . . is this all about? Who cares about polls? Decide what right is, explain and defend it vigorously, and then the public and the polls will support you.

3. The UK Debacle
What happens in the UK House of Commons is shameful. There used to be two countries in the world that would carry the torch of justice, IRRESPECTIVE of sheer interest—the US and the UK. The fact that the UK parliament was willing to set aside humanitarian consideration, human rights, and the case of justice is shocking, disgraceful, and in my view, will be a moment that will live in infamy in the history of the UK. Considering that the UK was saved twice in the last 100 years by US intervention, the shame is multiplied. I know that the last time was nearly 70 years ago, but with all due respect, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process of saving the UK is not something that time erases. I do hope that Prime Minster Cameron will find a way to go back to the Commons and wipe off this disgrace. The one thing I can say on his behalf is that, as I said above, I, too, would not want to go to war if my leader, the president of the US, was as inept, as dithering, as unconvincing. Where is Margret Thatcher when we need her?

4. France
On the other side of the spectrum, there is France. France, that would not even fight the Nazis in WWII, that put as many hurdles in front of the US only few years ago in the context of Iraq, has suddenly emerged as a muscular democracy and protector of human rights. It started with Sarkozy and I am surprised to see it continuing and even enhanced under his socialist successor Hollande. First, they took a leading position in Libya two years ago, equally with the UK, which is really unusual. Second, they went in quietly without fuss and simply demolished the Al Qaeda-related effort to take over Mali in the Western Sahara. No fuss, no big deal, simple effective use of world power INCLUDING “boots on the ground.” No big deal as opposed to Obama, who makes a huge deal out of everything. And now they are the only ones that say quite categorically that they are willing to take action in this matter right now. Kudos to France! I always thought they had beauty and style on their side; now I see that they have backbone too! And let’s not forget their heavenly food…

5. The Administration Disharmony
Throughout this debacle, we have Secretary of State Kerry coming out with statements and speeches that are strong, moral, emphatic, and honest—very impressive. I did not expect such spirit and resolve from him. It is late but better late than never. We never heard such things from his predecessor . . . yet as soon as he makes these types of speeches like he did on Friday, the president comes out and gives a hesitant, reluctant, damp squid-type speech. What is the matter with these people? Is Kerry trying to push the president to do something? Is he doing it without the president’s blessing? Is he risking his job? It is totally not clear what the role play here is. It would be customary for the chief diplomat to be hesitant and always think twice and thrice, see things on the one hand and on the other hand, and for the Chief Executive to be decisive and determined and lead. Here we see reversal of the roles.

6. The President Speaks to the Nation
True to form and after a number of false starts, and a number of hesitant interviews, the president finally, finally MADE a DECISION! The decision to NOT make a decision, a decision to throw the responsibility onto others: I would do it but “THEY” are not allowing me too. Alternatively, if they are not holding me off, it is “THEIR” fault not mine. COWARD! Laughing stock! DISGRACEFUL! In his address to the nation from the Rose Garden after 10 days of this debacle continuing, the president came out accompanied by his VP.

Let’s just start here—did you see the VP when he gleefully announced to the nation that HE, he instructed and he did and he decided and he and he and he and he and he—killed Bin Laden? Did you see Dick Cheney accompanying Bush when he addressed the nation regarding the controversial and risky Iraq “surge”? This is simply not done. Obama clearly is shirking the responsibility here. Mostly to Congress, but he wants Biden to shoulder the blame too. He is not going to take responsibility for this himself. For what, for G-d’s sake? For a small prick of the Syrian balloon? But that is not the worst of it— the big message is that . . . wait for it . . . he discovered the Constitution! Suddenly this Constitutional law professor is reminded of his origins. It is OK to flaunt the Constitution when it tells him that he has to defend the laws of the US whether he likes them or not (see DOMA or the DREAMERS). It is ok to take military action in Libya over months and months without even consulting Congress DURING the operation, let alone before. Ignore the fact that all Constitutional experts clearly state, as does he by the way, that he has the authority in this case to act on his own. Now somehow it is necessary to get congress to approve this small dent of an action. How disingenuous. He went on to lay it in his usual rhetorical eloquence that if you are for me, the great Obama, Ok, if you are against me—the blame be on you. And the worst of it is that it is not even important enough to call Congress’s fat asses back from vacation for a special session. At least in the UK, they called a special session. Here, it waited 10 days, so it will wait another 10–15 days.

Whatever happened to the immortal quote from the Good the Bad and the Ugly: “when you have to shoot, shoot don’t talk.”

Oh, I am so frustrated!

7. Kerry’s Road to Damascus
Secretary of State John Kerry clearly met his Jesus and discovered his truth. There is evil in this world and it needs to be fought. At mid-day on Friday, the Secretary of State comes out of discussions of the national security team in the White House with the president and gives a fiery convincing speech about the fact that the US will act, alone and soon. Less than 24 hours later, the president makes a joke of him and leaves him with the job of facing the nation in the Sunday talk shows and explaining the humiliating discrepancy here. My recommendation to Kerry, resign and declare your candidacy for the presidency in 2016! If you had this kind of conviction in your 2004 presidential run, you might have won. Instead that run was epitomized by your famous “I voted for it before I voted against it” comment. The American people expect and respect a president who has the courage and belief of his own convictions. Call out the president’s ineptness and stress your own “born-again” credentials. He is clearly better poised with better credentials than his predecessor, which was a complete non-event and she is probably as inept as the president is.

8. Congress
So now the ball is in Congress’s court. You see, this president is a master in making sure he takes blame for nothing. Remember his “present” voting record in the Illinois senate? So if congress votes to approve, he can always respond to any criticism by saying that you approved it too. If not, he can point the finger at the “obstructionist” Congress. That is not leadership. That is blame management. Congress is in a tough spot. They are being asked to support a president who is clearly disinterested, disengaged, and mistrusted for good reasons. Why should they do it? For the benefit of the country and the world. Unfortunately, I am convinced that the president will NOT go to bet for this resolution. He will continue to bash Congress on all other matters while asking them to support him here; he will not take a hand in influencing, explaining, and convincing people to vote for his ostensible resolution. He will leave it to the “leaders” of Congress. In his heart of hearts, he probably will be happy if Congress does not approve it. He will just continue to play golf.

9. Golf
Yes, golf. This president holds the record of any president for the number of golf rounds played while in office. President Bush, for instance, decided after the start of the Iraq war that he would cease all golf playing. He deemed it unseemly when soldiers died that he would be seen playing golf. He also took vacations ONLY in his family homes. This president is flaunting it by both vacationing in ritzy resorts and playing golf as if golf is going out of fashion. Why is that important? It is sending a message. Think of it: on Friday, Kerry makes a speech declaring Assad is a mass-murderer; on Saturday the president and his VP are standing in the Rose Garden declaring that they are not going to do anything about it, and what do they do next? They are going for a round of golf. The contrast between the 426 dead children and the president’s 400-plus rounds of golf (even if I exaggerate the number here somewhat) is striking.

10. A Shot across the Bow
The president used this phrase while talking about his aims in Syria on NPR. A lot of pundits criticized him, as a shot across the bow is meant to miss the main target. That however is nitpicking. What he meant to convey was that he wants to warn Syria, to make sure they do not use chemical weapons again. However, even if you grant that this phrase is appropriate here, what does it depict? What does it portend? So what will he do if they defy him and use chemical weapons again? Is he ready THEN to make a decisive move? A shot across the bow is a precursor to sinking the ship if the target does not obey. Is he willing to stand up and make it clear that the next time he will “sink the ship”? I doubt that and I suspect that this is EXACTLY what will happen—he will do a “shot across the bow” type action, the Syrians will use chemical weapons again at will, and then? Nothing.

One further thought on the concept of a shot across the bow. If the president is right and a shot across the bow is enough to achieve the desired result, that of stopping the use of chemical weapons—why did he not use it few months ago when he then reluctantly, and after months of wriggling, admitted that the Syrians used chemical weapons already? It was a much smaller case, only about 100 dead, but if he had done a “shot across the bow” then, he would have saved, according to his theory, 1,400 people who died this time. The president is morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest.

11. Chain of Custody “Proof”
The president used this phrase a few months ago when the first, small scale, chemical attack by the Syrians was in the headlines. In trying to explain his dithering then, he said, “Well, you see we know that chemical weapons were used but we do not know by whom . . . We do not have a “chain of custody.” So help me G-d, this is what he said in a press conference. What the #*%^? Chain of custody? In war? How ridiculous is he? How STUPID can you get? Expecting to have proof at the level of “beyond reasonable doubt”? Are we in a court of law here? This is a bloody war in a torn country where no media, no detectives, no CSI are allowed. What does he want? A dated and timed picture of someone pulling the trigger? Then, of course, such picture needs to be signed and tagged to preserve the “chain of custody.” This is so ridiculous as to be pathetic. In battle, you do not have “proof.” You act based on best available intelligence and yes you make mistakes, but ultimately we all know who the bad guys here are.

12. Media
My favorite subject. How irresponsible, the dereliction of duty, the false information disseminated, the stupidity and ignorance. Where does one even start?

The pundits and media men, of course, pick up on the stupid notion of “proof” and “chain of evidence” promulgated by the president. They take it to the extreme. It seems that the evidence of the use of chemical weapon is beyond doubt. But . . . we do not know who used it. Maybe it was the rebels who attacked themselves in order to encourage the US to intervene (by the way this “ploy” clearly failed). Maybe it was a low-level Syrian army officer who was simply frustrated. Maybe it was a high-level officer who wanted to go rogue and get Assad into trouble. Maybe it was Assad’s “bully” brother. But it is not CLEAR that it is Assad himself and if it is not clear and we have no proof, we should let him off. Think about it. It is simply shocking. Then they go on to ask what was Assad’s motive to do it, surely he knew that it would provoke a US action. Really? What #*%^ing action? Then they malign the opposition, painting them all with the brush of Al Qaeda. It is simply amazing the length the media will go to defend dictators and rogue régimes juxtaposed with the ease with which they blame and criticize democratic governments for every LITTLE screw up.

13. Holocaust
It is possible that the killing of 100,000+ people does not rise to the level of a “holocaust.” Maybe it takes a million plus. I am very good with numbers. Numbers speak to me but frankly, in this case, I do not see the difference between 100,000 and 1,000,000. I cannot comprehend the “killing fields” that cause such a holocaust. It is incomprehensible, unbelievable, shocking and…words fail me. Where is the WORLD? Where are all these human-rights activists? The media? What in the WORLD are they all thinking? Is there no shame anymore? Is there no conscience left? Have we learned NOTHING from WWII, Khmer Rouge, Tutsis & Hutus, Bosnia and Kosovo? What happened to human decency? DISGUSTING!

14. “No Good Options,” “No Easy Solutions”
Again, some of the more favorite terms of pundits and administration officials. Yes they are right, there are no good options, BUT:

  • Does that mean that one does nothing? As I said many times and wrote before, there are NEVER “good” options. When it comes to the desk of the Chief Executive of the USA, the decision is ALWAYS between BAD options. His job is to take the LEAST bad option. That is what a CEO does. If it was an easy decision with one good option, people at levels well below him would have made this decision way before it got to his desk.
  • The main reason why we are where we are today with such bad options all around is DUE TO Obama’s dithering for the last two years. Two years ago I, and few others, called for him to INTERVENE! Get involved; shape the outcome. Do not just stand there and let it happen. It was a strategic opportunity to do something right. To do something good. To HELP the Middle East achieve stability, at least in one part of it. THEN, he could have intervened aggressively, all out (no need for “boots on the ground”) on the side of the “good” rebel faction. He could have conditioned his support on assurances and commitments to future democratic institutions, human rights, women’s rights, minority rights etc. But what did he do? NOTHING, ZERO, NADA. Now he wonders why the situation is so messy and there are no “good” options. It is YOUR fault, Mr. President. It could have been different; it should have been different. When will the media and the pundits start highlighting his responsibility for this colossal failure?
  • It is hard for someone like me to know what the truth really is in Syria. While I have ZERO respect for the media, when you have extensive media reporting, one can separate the wheat from the chaff. Here we have no reporters on the ground so one is limited in one’s ability to discern what the truth really is. However, according to Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy, who seems to be a respectable scholar on the matter of Syria and has been in Syria many times since the trouble broke out and as late as last month, according to her, there is a lesser of the evil option. There are “good” rebels and they are far from being defeated. So why not support them aggressively? First to topple Assad and then to win against the Al-Qaeda related rebels? Why not aggressively go in favor of what could be a major strategic win for the forces of freedom and democracy? Is there a risk? Of course there is a risk. But there is a greater risk in doing NOTHING.

15. Middle East Stability
The Middle East is on fire. From Libya in the west, through Egypt, and Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, in the center to Bahrain, and Iran in the east. While Iran is not in flames itself, it is the one stoking the flames in most areas. Why is there such instability? Most people will say, “Oh, there always are wars, killings, and atrocities in the Middle East.” That is actually NOT correct. If you look back for the last 20 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, which was a decisive event in the geopolitics of that region, the Middle East was relatively stable. There was the first Gulf War, the Iraq war and . . . nothing else of significance. So for TWENTY years, the Middle East was relatively quiet. What changed? Some will point the finger at the Arab Spring but the real answer is that what changed is that the US has abdicated its role of establishing peace and stability in the Middle East. It has withdrawn. The US was the force that kept the Middle East stable, relatively speaking, for that area. It is the withdrawal of forces from Iraq but more importantly, the hands-off approach and the clear non-intervention espoused by this president that is responsible for the flames burning in the Middle East. The Arab Spring was actually a great opportunity. An opportunity that was triggered in my view, not by the immolation of one poor man in Tunis (that was the spark but the ground was dry and ready to burn), but by the democratization agenda of President Bush. With all his failure of execution, that policy did get the results that Bush wanted to achieve—stoking the fires of freedom in the Arab masses.

Unfortunately for him, for the US, for the world, and mostly for the Arabs, he was not there to support it anymore. Starting in Iran in 2009, moving to Tunisia in late 2010, Egypt in early 2011, and on and on, the Arabs rebelled against their autocratic rulers. What was called for was INTENSE engagement by the US to take this energy and tunnel it in positive ways. I wrote about it when it all started. What we got instead was nothing. A totally disinterested administration led by a president who could not care less and a secretary of state who was as inept as she was interested only in her own self-preservation.

16. Isolationists
If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck—it is a duck! This president is an isolationist. This is not a bad word, not a four-letter word; it is a fact. He is, of course, wrong and has no clue how ineffective and bad this policy is, but he is what he is. Maybe it was a good and effective policy in the 19th century when this policy was at its peak. Today it cannot work due to two things:

  • Global Village effect. The 19 terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on US soil did not recognize the ocean as a great barrier. What secured and supported American isolationism in the 19th century does not work anymore. They came here because they felt that the US is threatening their way of life and is their enemy. So they got on a plane, came over here, and killed people. The US has interests around the world, oil in the Middle East, cheap manufacturing in Asia, free trade all over the world; it cannot just close itself off from the rest of the world anymore.
  • No power vacuum. It is an established principle in geopolitics that there is no such thing as power vacuum. If the US withdraws, other players come in. In this case, in the Middle East, they are all BAD actors. Be it the Jihadist, the Iranians, or even the Russians, they all want to have influence and say in the Middle East because it is still a critical part of the world economy, due to hydrocarbons. As they see the US withdraw, they are ready to step in and take its place. When the US threatens to stop giving Egypt $1.5 Billion of aid, the gulf Arab states give Egypt $14 Billion. I wish Henry Kissinger a long and fruitful life but if he was dead, which he is not, he would turn in his grave. While Kissinger is mostly remembered by his great and historic achievement in opening China to the world on the one hand, and his shameful retreat from Vietnam on the other hand, his second-most important achievement that few talk about is to successfully throw the Soviets out of the Middle East and make the US the dominant power in this critical region. Seeing how this president is squandering not only the FANTASTIC opportunities presented to him on a plate (the Arab Spring), but also the achievements of 40 years and 5 former presidents who all worked hard to preserve the US dominance in the Middle East, it must be galling to him.

17. Deterrence
The best way to avoid having to go to war is to have a very strong military. I think that this simple statement is very logical and that most people understand and agree with it. The vast majority of American presidents understood it and followed it. If you do not want your enemy to attack you, your interests, or do other bad things, make him afraid of your reaction. DETER him. This is the first rule of most, if not all, military strategists. Unfortunately the US under president Obama has lost any deterrent power it had. Not only did he physically gut the military by dramatic budget cuts, he also broadcasted loud and clear to all that he has no intention of using the military in almost any circumstance. The US will pay a price for this. Until it happens we will never know when, how, why, and who, but there will be a price to pay. Unfortunately given the pathetic, subservient media and not articulate opposition, this president is likely to get away without carrying the blame although he is to blame.

18. London, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing, Damascus, Tehran
In one of the more emotional and beautiful parts of the Old Testament, in the Second book of Samuel, chapter 1, David (later to be King David) laments his fallen friend Jonathan and his father King Saul. In 1:20, he says, “tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.” David understood that a serious loss to us can give enormous moral support to our enemies and thus embolden them. Unfortunately in today’s world, it is impossible to keep these things a secret. The shameful action of the leader of the free world is here for everyone to see:

  • In the capitals of our allies, there is great concern and realization that one can simply not rely on the US anymore. I am sure there is a feeling of shock and dismay but above all, everyone knows, each one to himself.
  • In the capitals of the two other major world powers, there is contempt and contemplation. Contempt for this feckless American president who has no clue how the world works. Contemplation of what else can they do quickly to take advantage of that. Stay tuned; I am quite sure that both Russia and China will become increasingly belligerent.
  • And in the capitals of the Middle East? Glee, superiority, vindication, and strong conviction that they are on the right path, without having to be concerned with US intervention. With no deterrence, the road is open for Iran to become nuclear.

Finally, there is Israel. Why is it final? Because it is the ONLY country in the entire world that is facing final questions, existential questions. There is simply no other country in the world that is faced with demonstrated, clear and present danger of annihilation by its enemies.

So what are Israeli leaders to do right now? The chances of Iran using its nuclear weapons once they get them to proactively attack Israel are not high. But if they were 5% before because part of the reason not to attack Israel was fear of a punitive and devastating reaction from the USA, that fear has now been eliminated and therefore the risk of attack is now maybe 10%. So what is Israel to do? Can a small country like Israel live with a 10% risk of an obliterating proactive nuclear attack by Iran? That, in addition to all the other threats that the sheer existence of such weapons in the hands of this clerical, fundamental tyrannical régime involve?

Going back to the Old Testament, in the book of Isaiah 36:6, the King of Assyria says to the Israelites, “on what are you basing this confidence of yours? . . . On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that SPLINTERED REED of a STAFF which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depends on him.” In a shocking irony of fate, President Obama of the US became the Pharaoh with splintered reed of a staff that no one can trust or rely on.

After this humiliating performance of this modern-era Pharaoh, Israeli leaders have no choice but to attack the Iranian nuclear weapon effort, and the sooner the better.