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If Obama’s Rhetoric on Syria is a Joke, Why Trust Him on Iran?

On most issues, Jeffrey Goldberg has been a dependable cheerleader for the Obama administration. But the president’s feckless stand on the ongoing slaughter in Syria has caused Goldberg to write one of the best takedowns of the president’s inaction I’ve read. The piece, published yesterday in Bloomberg, is a comic gem as it describes how “Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blasts of Adverbs.”

Some critics say the U.S. has shamed itself by not intervening aggressively on behalf of Syria’s rebels and dissidents.

They’re wrong. The Obama administration hasn’t helped to arm the rebels, nor has it created safe havens for persecuted dissidents. But it has done something far more important: It has provided the Syrian opposition with very strong language to describe Assad’s various atrocities.

The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”

This is great stuff, and Goldberg goes on from there to note the absurdity of administration officials repeatedly speaking of their patience being “exhausted” and wonders how worried Bashar al-Assad will be when Washington’s patience is “completely exhausted.” But one wonders why the author of this wonderful riff on Obama’s meaningless tough talk on Syria thinks the president’s equally meaningless verbal assault on Iran is credible?

This is, after all, the same Jeffrey Goldberg who has consistently sought to assure friends of Israel that President Obama’s stance on Iran is more than mere rhetoric though, in fact, it has consisted of little but a collection of ominous adverbs punctuated by defenses of engagement and diplomacy since he took office. Granted, the president has reluctantly embraced sanctions on Iran (though he was way behind France and Britain on this score), but it is fairly obvious that he did so only to maneuver Israel into a situation where it could not attack the Islamist regime on its own.

Goldberg rightly dismisses the notion that Obama’s rhetoric about Syria consists of anything more than lip service, yet he believes Obama can be trusted to eventually escalate his stance on the Islamist ayatollahs from rhetoric to action. When people wonder why many in Israel have little faith in the president’s word on Iran, especially once he gets the “flexibility” that a second term would provide, perhaps we should refer them to Goldberg’s column on the administration’s verbal offensive against Assad.



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