April 26 2013
There was once a Roman general known as Fabius the Delayer.
The strategy worked out pretty well for Fabius, but I am not sure the tactic of stalling is working quite that well for Barack the Delayer.
I’m thinking in particular of two recent instances of delay: the president’s refusal to make a decision about the Keystone Pipeline XL, and his statement that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be a red line, triggering a response from the U.S.
Well, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said yesterday that Syria seems to have used chemical weapons.
As in the case of the studied-to-death Keystone Pipeline, the Syrian situation requires--according to the president--more study.
Whatever you think the U.S. should do with regard to Syria, there can be no argument that empty rhetoric from a President of the United States is a provocation to our enemies.
My guess is that President Obama is so used to grandstanding and not being called to account on it that he just said something that would make him look good about Syria and didn’t think what he’d do if Syria crossed his red line. But presidential posturing, if I am correct in that that was all it was, might turn out to be quite dangerous. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin writes:
With even ardent Obama supporters like Jeffrey Goldberg reminding the president he has made it crystal clear that chemical weapons use would be a red line that would trigger a strong U.S. response, what follows will not only tell us whether that promise would be kept. It will also illustrate just how seriously to take other pledges the administration has made, specifically its vow never to allow Iran to go nuclear. With the White House desperately trying to buy time before making a decision on Syria, it’s fair to ask why anyone should regard American rhetoric on Iran as anything more than an elaborate bluff if Obama won’t keep his word about Assad’s behavior.
Judging by the reaction in Washington to the news about the proof of the Assad regime using chemical weapons, many in the administration may now regret the president’s willingness to make promises about Syria. It is likely that he and his foreign policy team naively believed that Assad would fall long before they were called to account for their loose talk about being willing to act if the dictator went too far in trying to preserve his regime. Moreover, having largely been propelled into office by American war weariness, it will be difficult for a president who prefers to lead from behind to convince his supporters to back American involvement in Syria.
On the Keystone Pipeline, far from making strong statements and being unable to back them up, the president has tried to say next to nothing.
Caught between the posh environmentalists who are his allies and the need to create more jobs, the president has sought to hide behind asking for more studies to be done. Endless studies already have been done. Keystone would give us energy from a friendly nation and American create jobs. But the President is unwilling to make a decision. He likes to transform but he does not like to govern.
To govern is to risk alienating the cool people by making a tough choice.