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The Amateur’s War

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On September 10, 2013 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 137 Comments

Syria would be Obama’s fourth war, but it might as well be his first war. The amateur has an impressive war machine that can level entire countries, but not the understanding of how to use it.

Obama has reportedly flipped through 50 war plans for Syria, but he hasn’t been able to provide one sensible reason why the attack should happen. His rationalizations and justifications never stop shifting. If you don’t like one excuse, wait a bit and another one will come along.

In his weekly address, Obama said that military action was necessary to protect against the national security threat of chemical weapons falling “into the hands of terrorist groups who wish to do us harm.”

This explanation contradicted his actual plan of attacking Syrian military installations thereby helping the Syrian terrorists who wish to do us harm. The surest way to see chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists is by bombing Assad.

If Obama were really worried about national security, he would be more concerned about Al Qaeda’s nerve gas manufacturing efforts in Iraq and Assad’s chemical weapons being captured by its Al Nusra Front affiliate.

Obama’s plan for Syria is really a maze of excuses riven with contradictions.

It’s a military solution to a problem that he insists can only have a diplomatic solution. It’s a unilateral attack launched by two men who built their recent political reputations on opposing unilateralism. And Obama is bringing it to Congress for approval as a symbolic gesture while making it clear that he will not be bound by a negative decision.

The man who advocated turning a blind eye to Sudan and Rwanda during his campaign, who emerged into the spotlight opposing the removal of Saddam Hussein, suddenly insists that we cannot turn a blind eye to Syria…after having turned a blind eye to it for years.

Even if 1,429 Syrians did die in the chemical attack, that’s only 1.5 percent of the total deaths in the war. By the end of 2011, the UN listed 5,000 dead in Syria. Obama was willing to turn a blind eye to those 5,000, and the 100,000 that followed, but not to these 1,429.

And like so much else, the chemical attack that Obama is using to justify the strikes is a question mark.

UK intelligence claims 350 dead. French intelligence puts it at 281. Doctors Without Borders lists only 355. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights lists 502 dead.  The one thing these estimates have in common is that they are far below Kerry’s 1,429.

Like these numbers, the facts and excuses fluctuate wildly. Obama promises Americans a light attack to deter Assad, but tells senators that it will lead to regime change. Either Obama is lying or he can’t make up his mind.

The men and women around Obama have proven to be equally amateurish and incompetent.

Samantha Power, his UN ambassador, wasted time trying to convince Iran to reject Assad over his use of chemical weapons, apparently unaware that Iran was developing nuclear weapons to be used on Israel.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the House Committee that the attacks would cost tens of millions of dollars. Considering that Tomahawk cruise missiles cost $1.5 million each, not to mention the cost of warship deployments and operations, a more realistic figure would be in the hundreds of millions.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough admitted that while there was no “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence,” the videos of the attacks led him to a “common sense” conclusion that Assad was responsible. Apparently we start wars now based not on evidence, but on common sense conclusions.

Secretary of State John Kerry had told Congress that there was indeed proof beyond a reasonable doubt only to be contradicted by the Chief of Staff. But Kerry didn’t need to be contradicted by McDonough because he was too busy contradicting himself, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted the option of putting boots on the ground before denying it, telling Congressmen that this was a Munich moment but promising “unbelievably small” strikes.

Kerry, who began his entry into international politics with illegal negotiations with the Viet Cong and began his Senate career with unsolicited negotiations with the Sandinistas, had spent his career practicing to become a diplomatic disaster.

The amateurish performance culminated with Kerry suggesting that Assad could avoid a war by giving up his chemical weapons. Russia signed on to the proposal. A State Department spokesman explained that Kerry hadn’t really meant it. Obama then announced that he was ordering Kerry to follow through on the proposal that he hadn’t meant seriously. It was a comedy of errors with countless lives at stake.

Senator McCain called Kerry’s efforts “unbelievably unhelpful.” The Washington Post described him as “dangerously bad.”

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the only professional on the team, who had warned earlier, “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid,” appeared to sum up the inchoate state of affairs by replying to the question “What is it you’re seeking?” with “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”

If the highest ranking military officer can’t answer that question about Syria, who can?

After months of trying, no one in the administration can explain what they hope to achieve by bombing Syria. They hint at regime change and then rule it out. They promise that it will be unbelievably small and that it will change the momentum of the war. They talk about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists, but follow a course that will put chemical weapons into the hands of terrorists.

Attacking Syria is bad policy. Attacking Syria without having a plan isn’t even a policy. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

And it’s Obama’s disaster.

Conservatives who urge support for Obama’s plan to patriotically protect his credibility and leadership, are suffering from misplaced priorities. Not only are these qualities as absent as they have ever been, but this country does not send men into battle to protect incompetent politicians who are too busy playing Hamlet to act the part of commander-in-chief.

“The United States should never go to war because it wants to; the United States should go to war because we have to,” John Kerry said during his debate with George W. Bush. Those are not bad words.

We don’t fight wars because we can, because France wants us to or because not dropping the bombs will undermine the standing of an elected official.

War is serious business. It’s too important to be left to amateurs.

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