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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Obama's "game changer"

On April 30, in the light of recent evidence indicating the use of Sarin gas in Syria, Jon Stewart roasted the President (for game changer remarks and subsequent inaction about the use of such gas) and some Republicans (for their response).

Three things:

1.  I'm not real sure that he was justified in his complaint with the Rs (that they want to do something but don't want "boots on the ground").  There are in fact some substantial things that one can do that do not involve "boots".  Construct a no-fly zone over Syria or persuade the Russians to quit supplying Assad.

2.  I agree with what I will call Jon's first criticism of Obama.  When Obama first trotted out the red line gamechanger talk he left it completely open as to what the response would be.  He should have been clearer at the outset that there would still be a variety of responses that we could make in the event that the "game changing" use of WMD actually occurred.  (It also wouldn't have hurt if he had made a distinction on what our response would be based on who used the WMD.)  Instead he gave the impression that if any WMD appears in Syria we were going to jump right in with both feet.

 3.  I strongly disagree with the complaint about the second criticism of Obama in this case.  That is that he said we were going to do something and we should now be going gung ho into action.  You may or may not have supported Bush 43's actions vis a vis the existence of WMD in Iraq.  However, the lack of supporting evidence in that case makes it absolutely essential that any action by Obama vis a vis the use of WMD in Syria is based on rock solid evidence.  There is no room for a margin of error here.

1 comment:

  1. WRT “rock solid evidence” – Most of the world was convinced that Iraq had WMD. The evidence (though wrong) was, in most circles, considered very close to rock solid. That made Bush’s decision easier than it otherwise might have been.

    Unfortunately, you are correct that past events almost certainly will influence Mr. Obama’s decisions on Syria. Reluctance to make a game changing decision without overwhelming evidence may in fact be prudent. Still, the first rule of crisis management is that executives WILL always be required to make “game changing” decisions with incomplete and non-conclusive information. That’s why they call it an “Executive” decision.

    I do not envy the President on this one. At this point I do not share Jon’s point of view. However, if it becomes clear that the IRAQ mistake unduly influences the decision making on Syria I will join Jon in his criticism.