Charles Crawford at the UK Telegraph called yesterday “the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began,” as America’s idiotic Secretary of State, John Kerry, wiped out the Obama Administration’s entire war effort with a single offhand comment about how Syria could escape Obama’s “unbelievably small” wrath by handing over his WMD:
This prompted a speedy response from Moscow suggesting that Russia would work with Syria on a programme to abandon its chemical weapons. And this in turn was seized on by President Obama as a way out of his looming disaster in winning Congressional approval to respond with military force to the use of CW in Syria.
Think about what will happen if the Russian initiative starts to fly.
Chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and store (and fire), but much harder to dismantle safely. The chemicals themselves are fiendishly dangerous and need to be destroyed with specialist equipment without creating environmental hazards. Plus the explosive part of the delivery shell needs careful handling. Destroying CW stocks is therefore a complex and expensive operation, even under calm conditions. Both the United States and Russia have both heavily failed to meet internationally agreed deadlines for destroying their massive Cold War legacy chemical weapons stocks.
There is no precedent for attempting anything like this in a country wracked by civil war. It just can???t happen. No Syrian chemical weapons will be destroyed or “handed over” quickly.
Meanwhile any new process of setting up an international monitoring and destruction regime will require painstaking UN and wider negotiation with the Assad regime, thereby giving Assad and his state apparatus a massive boost of renewed confidence and legitimacy. Before long Washington may find itself locked on to implicitly or even explicitly supporting Assad in his civil war as the best chance to get some sort of internationally agreed CW destruction program delivered in Syria.
That’s what happens when an Administration filled with arrogant, petulant political animals plays chess against old pros. There has been speculation that Obama is privately comfortable with this outcome, since it spares him the humiliation of losing a war vote in Congress and either standing down, or burning off the final shreds of the U.S. Constitution to attack in defiance of Congress. Of course, Obama’s circus of spokesclowns will now begin pouring out of Volkswagen Bugs at TV studios across America, claiming this is a triumph of “smart power” and Russia would never have been able to secure Syria’s chemical weapons unless Barack the Slayer terrorized Bashar Assad into submission. This process has already begun, even as the rest of Obama’s hapless war machine continues sputtering along on one cylinder:
If POTUS hadn’t threatened credible military response, does anyone believe Russia and Syria would be coming forward now? No time to falter.
??? David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 10, 2013
Falter? Obama couldn’t even get congressional Democrats on board with Operation Stalemate. An embarrassed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had to postpone the Syria vote because he feared Obama would lose, and his odds are much worse in the House.
A New York Times article that hilariously describes Obama’s Syrian mess as “a predicament partly of his own making” (the Times having apparently internalized Obama’s claim that he didn’t say all that “red line” stuff the entire planet saw him saying) offers this astonishing revelation: “In their private moments, Mr. Obama???s allies said even the argument that his presidency would for all intents and purposes be over did not sway some unsympathetic Democrats, frustrated over how few victories there have been to hang on to in Mr. Obama???s fifth year in office.”
Public opposition to war in Syria was actually growing as Obama and his surrogates made their case. The New York Times and CBS News put opposition to Syrian airstrikes at 60 percent, while Pew Research described opposition as “surging” by 15 points over the past week. The Times ascribes this opposition to Americans being “exhausted by nearly a dozen years of war and fearful of tripping into another one,” which is doubtless true, but it wouldn’t explain why Obama lost more public support with each passing day. That’s a testament to how unconvincing his case was, the points scored by opponents – particularly with regard to the unsavory nature of the Syrian rebel forces – and the disastrous mishandling of war politics by the President. People notice when you hand a plate of steaming-hot fiasco off to Congress and go golfing, Mr. President.
While John Kerry is probably staring at a CNN news crawl with his jaw hanging limp in a fold of Botoxed skin, Syria and Russia raced to embrace each other and declare the crisis averted, as reported by the Associated Press:
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative.”
Al-Moallem added that Syria did so to “uproot U.S. aggression.”
His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia is now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which will be presented shortly.
Lavrov said that Russia will then be ready to finalize the plan together with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Syrians are so happy that they celebrated by using Russian-made warplanes to bomb the crap out of rebel positions in Damascus, but they didn’t use chemical weapons, so it’s all good. The New York Times adds that France is on board:
As the diplomatic pace quickened around Russia???s plan for Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons, France said on Tuesday it would propose a United Nations Security Council resolution enshrining the idea while Moscow said it was working with the authorities in Damascus on a ???workable, precise and concrete plan??? to carry the proposal forward.
???We are hoping to present this plan in the near future,??? Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said. ???We will be ready to work through this plan and improve it with the participation of the U.N. general secretary, with chemical weapons control organizations and with the members of the Security Council.???
The Russian blueprint also won backing from China, which has resisted Western calls for military action against Syria but said on Tuesday that it supported Moscow???s vow to avert an American strike following last month???s poison gas attacks outside Damascus.
As soldier-philosopher Private Hudson observed during a comparable crash-and-burn scenario, “That’s it, man. Game over.” There’s no way Barack Obama will get to lob any cruise missiles at Bashar Assad’s helicopter pads while teams from Russia and the United Nations are gearing up to “secure” those chemical weapons. I wouldn’t put any bets on how thorough this process will be, but it doesn’t have to be thorough, does it? It only has to be protracted.
As Mr. Crawford observed at the UK Telegraph, this is a total defeat for Obama, and a strategic master stroke for Assad and Russia. There’s an excellent chance Obama will be pushed into supporting the Assad regime by the time this plays out, because the al-Qaeda-infested rebels can’t be allowed to seize those chemical weapons, or interfere with the long, dicey process of inventory and confiscation. The odds of “false flag” staged chemical attacks – from either the rebels or the Assad regime, maybe even both – has gone up considerably.
And while there’s considerable evidence of regime culpability for the August “red line” atrocity, there’s also considerable evidence that the rebels have used chemical weapons int he past. If the rebels are caught doing so again, every thoughtless statement Obama and his people have ever made about “red lines” is going to be thrown back in their faces by Assad and his patrons. Meanwhile, we’ll get to sit back and watch the New Hitler finish off his opponents – many of whom belong to organizations America has also been bombing – with conventional weapons. History may show that Assad profited from using chemical weapons, by the time all is said and done.
Obama’s political hacks think they can get out in front of this and take credit for it, and while that might work to some extent in the domestic political theater (with a big assist from friendly media, of course) it would be an absolute disaster for what remains of American prestige on the world stage. If you’re seriously worried about American credibility, you don’t want Obama burning away the final remaining scraps of it by going on television tonight to thump his chest and declare himself the true godfather of the Russian peace plan. The situation is bad enough as it is. We don’t need the entire planet laughing at us.
But nobody in the Obama Administration has thought more than one move ahead throughout this debacle. There’s no sign they’re going to start playing a better game today. Anyone feeling an immense surge of relief that John Kerry blundered us out of a war might want to think a few moves ahead, as well. Soon we’ll be seeing international editorial cartoons of a childlike Obama trying to throw toy rockets at a bratty Assad, while a gigantic adult Vladimir Putin stands between them, scowling down at little Barack. This really is a dark day. There isn’t much left to say to small players wondering which global super-power makes a better patron. The money from America is nice, but any fool can see that it’s running out. Obama shuffles off the world stage, humbled and humiliated, as the Russian and Chinese epochs begin.