It’s hardly surprising that, given the incoherence of President Obama’s Syria policy, his prime time address to the nation on the subject made so little sense.
The first part of the speech was the kind of rousing call for action that a commander in chief would deliver right after the first bombs are falling on Damascus. Said the president: “When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory, but these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.”
He then proceeded to swat away one objection after another to the use of force. But here was the kicker: the bombs are not falling, nor are they likely to.
Obama concluded, in a section obviously tacked onto remarks that were no doubt already written before the events of the last 24 hours, that there are “encouraging signs” that Syria will give up its chemical weapons as part of a deal brokered by Russia. His conclusion: “I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.”
In short, the speech was a rousing call to action followed by a call for inaction–a.k.a. the “diplomatic path” which apparently, as per Moscow, does not include making credible threats of force against Assad should he fail to disarm. Obama did not even demand that Congress pass a resolution authorizing military action if the current talks don’t pan out–he simply told Congress to cool it while Putin works his magic.
What, one wonders, was the point of the speech? Was it simply that the White House had already booked the TV time and wanted to carry on regardless of the facts? Or does Obama imagine that his stern words will cow Assad into compliance even as it is obvious that opposition in Congress will not allow air strikes?
This simply makes no sense. But then neither does anything that Obama has done on Syria recently.