Barack Obama’s Budding Syrian Disaster
To date the biggest foreign policy success of Barack Obama has been keeping us out of another war we didn’t need to fight. If John McCain or Mitt Romney had been elected president, we certainly would have been at war with Iran by now. But Obama, to his credit, hasn’t been pulled into the “Big Stick” conservative think tank macho miasma — until now.
A headline in today’s Washington Post reads: Attack by U.S. would be narrow in scope and duration.” Very prudent that. Well parsed like the law professor Mr. Obama once was and should probably have remained. Except in the real world, especially in wars, things very often don’t go exactly as planned.
Look at what happened in our takedown of Osama bin Laden, which was a huge success. Our very best soldiers using our very best equipment practiced for long months to go at a very soft target — a private residence — expecting (and achieving) total surprise. Yet one of the stealth coptors used in the mission crashed. The Seals on the ground almost got into a fight with bin Laden’s neighbors. And they escaped being shot up by called out Pakistani F-16s by just a very few minutes.
So what could go wrong in this loudly broadcast, coming soon strike on Syria? The mind boggles about what could go amiss in such a venture.
One of the missiles or bombs used could stray into a residential neighborhood, hit a mosque, a school, the hotel where Russian advisers go for a drink. Or maybe everything goes as we planned but Assad has played games with our likely targets. His jet planes have gone on training missions in Iran. His attack helicopters have all been temporarily broken down and put into storage. His barracks are empty and troops dispersed, and school children sent there on summer vacations. His command and control centers are relocated to mosques.
Why wouldn’t he do this sort of thing when he has the time as he does now? Wouldn’t anybody with a brain do them?
So we achieve nothing with this show of force except demonstrate our moral outrage at the use of chemical weapons. Which is very high-minded. Except that the damage done to human bodies by hollow point bullets and phosphorous munitions, and fragmentation explosives are every bit as horrible. And more than 100,000 Syrians were killed with this weaponry before chemical weapons that crossed a “red line” were used.
Ah, that red line. A stupid comment by President Obama that now has to be backed up with a truly, truly dangerous show of force so save what’s left of his credibility.
Will Syrians or their proxies send some nasty stuff toward Israel as their response? Or bring down some of our computer-based infrastructure. Or maybe get real lucky and shoot down an American plane and capture its pilot. What do we do about that one? Would he (or she) become a prisoner war? Think about it. Yellow ribbons on trees again?
Markets are about to take a steep swoon. Our dysfunctional government is facing a slew of ideological idiocies. And now the U.S. is about to jump into the 2013 version of the 1913 Balkans morass.
It should be an interesting early September. “Interesting” in the way of that Chinese expression about “not wanting to live in interesting times.”
(Michael Silverstein’s newest book is The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street)