The Syria Confidence Trick

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


tryThere isn’t much enthusiasm for Obama’s plan for Syria and even the experts have trouble explaining why the attacks will do any good. The debate has congealed down to credibility.

The only real argument in favor of hitting Syria is that Obama laid down a red line and Congress is obligated to protect his credibility when making poorly thought out threats for the sake of national security.

But it’s not Congress’ job to protect Obama’s credibility for the sake of the nation. It was Obama’s job to protect the nation’s credibility by not setting a red line until he had Congressional approval.

Bush was able to go to Congress and receive an authorization to use force against Iraq that was contingent on Saddam continuing to flout United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Obama could have done the same thing on Syria. He could have done it any time after his red line remark a year ago. Bush got his authorization half a year before the war. Obama had twice as much time to get his.

But Obama didn’t bother with authorization in Libya and he had no intention for asking for one in Syria. Instead he chose to wait until the last minute when an incident occurred that would force his hand, only to then backtrack by taking it to Congress, a move that his people repeatedly rejected until it became politically convenient.

And now Congress is supposed to somehow salvage his credibility from this mess.

What credibility?

While the media lectures Congress on its obligation to pretend that the emperor is wearing pants for the sake of the empire, they’re forgetting that there were never any pants to begin with.

We’re not dealing with a case of suspected emperor nudity to be covered up. The world has already seen video of the emperor flashing everyone on the National Mall since his first inauguration.

Americans may be the captive audience of his media, but the enemies he needs to impress aren’t.

Obama didn’t impress our enemies with his inability to make up his mind about Afghanistan. The firing of multiple generals, the mounting death toll and the clumsy attempts to negotiate with the Taliban took away his credibility.

The people he needs to impress, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Khamenei have already taken his measure and are unimpressed. If Congress belatedly approves his strikes on Syria, none of them are going to run off and hide under their desks or confuse the messy delayed outcome with a show of real strength.

Credibility isn’t just about making and keeping threats. It’s about knowing which threats to make and why to make them.

Our enemies don’t doubt that we can bomb. They doubt that we know whom to bomb and why.

No one doubts that America has lots of cruise missiles. After Obama’s sequester, we don’t have as many as we used to, but our capabilities are not really in dispute. What is in dispute is are we are capable of conducting a credible foreign policy. It’s hard to characterize a belated bombing of Syria on behalf of a Free Syrian Army that everyone but us knows is our enemy as a credible policy.

Credibility is about more than bombs. It’s about the perception that your opponent knows what he’s doing. Announcing that you have to bomb another country to demonstrate your credibility is begging for your bluff to be believed.

No act of Congress can buy Obama any kind of credibility and no amount of bombs will put the mom jeans back on the naked emperor. It’s too late for that.

The recurring argument that Iran is watching Syria and that its nuclear program hangs in the balance has no credibility.

Iran knows that Obama isn’t trying to bomb Syria because he really believes that WMD use is a red line. Its leaders know that the proposed attacks, like the arms being supplied to the rebels, are part of Obama’s support for the Sunni opposition at the behest of the Sunni oil states who have a death grip on Washington.

Obama will not bomb Iran. The Democrats did everything possible to stop Bush from doing it. They are not about to do it themselves. Killing the myth that Syria is a gateway to Iran is good for Israel. It means that Israel may finally realize that Obama will not step in and do the right thing at the last minute once every ounce of diplomacy has been squeezed out and the sanctions have been tightened as much as they will go. And then it may finally look after its own interests.

Americans and Israelis have been fooled by a confidence trick played with the discredited policies of soft power and nation building through Islamist democracy. And those policies have even less credibility than Obama does.

And it’s the credibility of policies that was the real issue all along.

Obama did not have a credible policy on Syria, just like he didn’t have one on Libya or Egypt. This is not an administration that is capable of foreseeing the unexpected consequences of its actions abroad. Instead it operates with the arrogant dogmatism of the left by assuming that ideological credibility will translate into results.

Obama would like to bomb Syria, while his advisers admit that there is no real plan for Syria.

Obama bombed Libya and now the Muslim Brotherhood has forced the elected government out of power while militias battle for control over its major cities. The media won’t report that, just as it skims across the surface of Benghazigate, because it might give people the idea that bombing a place without having a plan for the aftermath is a bad idea.

The constant calls for protecting Obama’s credibility are really demands that Congress enlist in the media’s spin brigade by protecting his image for the sake of national security. But the only people being fooled by this show are other Americans. The spin corps isn’t protecting American credibility abroad; it’s promoting America credulity at home.

Obama’s media defenders insist on selling Americans on the myth of his competence. That is the confidence trick they want to pull off with the help of Congress. The trick is not being played on Assad or Putin or the rest of the world; instead it will once again be played on America.

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  • Hass

    The USA is deprived of an effective opposition to keep the bastards in office honest. And you can forget about the majority of the Republicans, they’ve been complicit in making the US what it is today. A toothless tiger when it comes to it’s worst enemies in history.

    Republicans need new blood…

    • Vic Freits

      So being so, what is good and what is bad for the u.s.a.? The Republicans are all bad now and the Democrats are just as bad and maybe worse. Everybody on this forum criticizes but with no solutions or plans to change or repair what’s broken. Are we supposed to wait for a terrorist to get a hold of any chemical W.M.D. and come to our backyard and poison our water reservoirs, our rivers, or set us up in an airport abroad? I understand the vendetta against Obama, but what ever piece of journalism to look good as a journalist, by clearly describing the political agenda against the man, just doesn’t cut it; Neither does answers our safety concerns and what to do about it.

      • braddocksgold

        I’d like to do something but I gotta go to work in the morning.

        • lyndaaquarius

          send Daniel Greenfield’s articles on to someone every day. Easy to do and important,too.

      • ziggy zoggy

        How does removing Assad and handing Syria to terrorists improve American security? The left-wing meme that conservatives oppose everything Obama does simply because they hate him has always been idiotic but now it’s old and tired.

        • WW4

          How did removing Saddam and handing Iraq over to the Iranians improve American security?

          You need to face it: if this were a Republican president, you’d be supporting a Syria strike, while the democrats screamed about “imperialism.” The difference is merely the party of the president and the weariness over what now everybody is essentially admitting was the mistake of invading Iraq. The “left-wing meme” therefore applies to you. Why can’t you be honest with yourself?

  • truebearing

    The only things that make sense in Obama’s Red Line Theater are that he wants to posture mightily, for the sake of his own ego, and he wants to continue to reduce the stature of the United States by any means possible.
    There are so many ironies in this Syrian stupidity, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but mine is that his attempt to rehab his image at home is cementing his image as an international buffoon….not mention poltroon.

  • PAUL WESTON

    Mr Greenfield, the MSM is shockingly negligent, both professionally and morally, with regard to the Middle East and Obama. Not one MSM journalist will write THE definitive article on the election of Obama, his 2009 Cairo speech, his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood (both at home and abroad) – his support for rebels no matter they may be Al Qaeda, his lack of support for the moderate Green revolutionaries in Iran etc et. which have all led to the utterly inevitable carnage we see spreading across the Middle East and North Africa which could, just could, lead to WW3.

    You seem the best chap to write such an article. THE definitive article. How about it? I would do it myself, but I am a Brit and it should be written by an American really.

    Paul Weston. Liberty GB.

    • ziggy zoggy

      The Establishment Media aren’t negligent. They’re complicit. They have been hiding Obama’s failures and promoting him as the second coming since day one.

  • PAUL WESTON

    I have just read an article in the British Independent newspaper, which outlines the descent of Libya into anarchy. It is not the article though, but the comments which are interesting. The Independent is a left-liberal publication, although the way the commentators take them to task does not suggest this is so. Worth reading for the comments alone. Obama takes a pasting. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/special-report-we-all-thought-libya-had-moved-on–it-has-but-into-lawlessness-and-ruin-8797041.html

  • Richard Fontaine

    A superb analysis of the situation. Thank you for such brilliant writing.

  • Genie ♥ BENGHAZI ♥ Smith

    I have thought since I discovered you during my Blogger days that your analyses should be required reading for every person in any way affiliated with foreign policy in the US government. I may not write any longer, but I still believe that with all my heart.

    If only we had people in our government with half the sense that you display on a regular basis with your brilliant writing we would live in a much better and safer world.

    Thank you, Daniel.

    Blessings to you and yours. ♥

    • lyndaaquarius

      If Daniel Green field was required reading in our High Schools, America would be restored. He’s an extraordinary talent and a true patriot. Long may he live,write and prosper. We all need to forward his work on to many.. friends every day.

  • bob e

    take it to ‘em dan..

  • Unc Remus

    Obozo displays two types of “Leadership”…Incompetent and None at all!

  • tanstaafl

    Anyone remember the 1997 film “Wag the Dog”? It seems that life imitates art.

  • Robbins Mitchell

    Well,if the Russkies and Chinese and Iranians see the boy as a punk and treat him that way,then why shouldn’t I?

    • Vic Freits

      If I were as brainwashed as to believe everything written against the man … I too would have lost the respect for the man and treated him in the punky way he deserves.

      • ziggy zoggy

        That would require you to be honest, which you clearly are not. And the Obamahdi isn’t a man. He’s a girly man.

        • Hass

          Hehehe…

  • sendtheclunkerbacktochicago

    Someone here at Frontpage needs to contact Congressman Stockman and ask him to comment on the criminal evidence he has sitting on his desk proving that Barry Soetoro has been using fraudulent documents to remain in office. During the past month those who conducted the 23 month long investigation of Barry Soretoro have been in a few Congressional offices presenting their evidence, Congressman Stockman was the first they visited. He is convinced this President is a fraud. If this is true than the folks that participate here at Frontpage should be very, very concerned about this scandal especially given the fact that we may be allowing this Fraud in Chief to send our military into action once again.

    • Vic Freits

      As far as Obama being a fraud, the question is: If he’s a fraud why are the Republicans, “Tea party darlings” and “rising stars” such as Cantor and the rest, supporting him in such a fraud?

      • ziggy zoggy

        They don’t support him. They just don’t think they can win that fight. They should try though, even if it’s only to get moon bats like you to STFU.

  • Robert Lande

    The Arabs have a saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. After this is all over, the Syrian rebels will still hate us they will remain our enemy.

  • Billy Bingle

    Seems like his policy is to create chaos… to fundamentally transform the world.

    • Douglas J. Bender

      I think his intent is to support the Muslim Brotherhood in their goal of establishing a worldwide Caliphate. He’s clearly a Muslim himself, apparently beholden to Saudi Arabia (his bow before the King/Sultan there looked natural).

  • James Simpson

    Nice work Dan. And exactly right.

  • Merican

    Good article but the moral credibility of the USA was lost long ago by BJClinton & Yugoslavia and GWBush & Iraq not to mention previous DRat Presidents FDR & Wilson that lied their way into 2 WWs.

    • ziggy zoggy

      Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant and overthrowing him was a moral thing to do. Wilson didn’t lie and FDR didn’t need to lie because Japan attacked America and then Hitler declared war against America.

      Ignoramus.

  • timpottorff

    As an American, I am stunned that this president can so easily manipulate and hypnotize not only Congress but the media…as well as most college kids to believe the latest ‘spell’ that he pronounces.
    Are Americans so stupid that they cannot see the double-talk and back-tracking that this guy speaks?
    This is the Manchurian President if there ever was one.

    • 11bravo

      It is because he is half WHITE!!
      Our country will slide into the toilet because the GOP does not want to be labeled as racists – except for the fact that they already are!!.

      • braddocksgold

        I don’t believe they hate whites as much as the Democrats do.

    • lyndaaquarius

      not anymore. huge numbers of Americans can really see finally how foolish and inept he is.The Bloom is way off the rose. On the Jesse Jackson radio program today not one caller supported Obama. People don’t trust him. The con game has died.

  • tokoloshiman

    america is the worlds buffoon with a powerful army , with drones in the air and drones on the ground ,…..

  • Defend Liberty

    Hussein Obama is a dangerously delusional marxist.

    • timpottorff

      You are oh so right!

  • DontMessWithAmerica

    This article, as most of your articles, should be read by all Americans but Obama does not represent all of our problems. MSM is just as big a problem.

  • mtnhikerdude

    Maybe in 2017 O’Clownba could run for mayor of Detroit or head of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    • ziggy zoggy

      He already is the defacto leader of the brotherhood.

  • Ellman48

    Obama is a superior politician but a pathetic executive. His marketing campaigns may fool a lot of Americans but they don’t work too well on foreign nations or peoples. What a ridiculous statement to make: “My credibility is not on the line, international credibility is on the line.” He has always thought that he could alter the nature of reality with such clever obfuscations. His credibility is not on the line. He has no credibility left! Wake up dude!

    • lyndaaquarius

      wouldn’t a “superior politician” be able to build coalitions and win the trust and real affection of his party? I don’t see Obama as having those talents and skills. His “loose lips sink ships” style doesn’t earn him much respect. He’s not clever at all,it turns out.

  • Ellman48

    “Instead it operates with the arrogant dogmatism of the left by assuming
    that ideological credibility will translate into results.” There are ‘results’ alright! 99% of them called ‘unintended consequences’ (all negative and harmful). In fact, if the lefties don’t get the result they want the first time they will try and try again because they will never accept the idea that their policy, vision or ideology are simply contrary to reality and actual human nature or behavior.

    • Robert Lande

      Yes, and isn’t it ironic that they call themselves progressives?

  • Ellman48

    “Obama’s media defenders insist on selling Americans on the myth of his
    competence. That is the confidence trick they want to pull off with the
    help of Congress. The trick is not being played on Assad or Putin or the
    rest of the world; instead it will once again be played on America.”

    Negative criticism and perceptions of Obama the MSM can always spin or distort on the domestic front. On the international front it can simply ignore them and not report them, which is exactly what it does. Never has a man less qualified or capable of leading being mythologized as a ‘great’ leader by the leftist media. Really an incredible ‘romantic crush’ on Obama by the MSM. Ignoring all his flaws and failures they remain protective and faithful like a mother.

  • PouponMarks

    Barry Soetoro is an Internationalist. He has no affection for America, Her values, individualism, or the nation-state, for that matter. He and the Marxist, Jewish Billionaires/Millionaires have the overriding desire for a One World Government, ruled by an elite of permanent government nomemklaturas and apparatchiks. The super rich see this as absolute control over all assets in the world, both material and human.

    The biggest mistake any American can make is to automatically assume Obama is acting foremost in the interests of this country. He is only pretending in this regard, and pretending he is an American.

  • WW4

    “The media won’t report that, just as it skims across the surface of
    Benghazigate, because it might give people the idea that bombing a place
    without having a plan for the aftermath is a bad idea.”

    It skims across the surface of Benghazi (why “-gate?”) because 1. there is a dearth of new facts coming to light; and 2. a complete lack of political will on the part of Obama’s critics. As far as “not having a plan,” what exactly do you think was happening in Benghazi? The plan was CIA involvement/meddling; all the people killed were working for the CIA; that is why they were there. The fact that there WAS a plan is perhaps the most under-reported part of Benghazi.

  • dougjmiller

    Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East is dictated by his benefactors in the oil rich Arabian Peninsula. The wealthy Sunni Arab/ Moslems are scared to death of the Shia Persian/ Moslems. And the Assad regime in Syria is a tool of the Shia dictatorship in Iran which has threatened the monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula countless times. Obama is trying to curry favor with his masters by going after Assad. At some point he will also go after the mullahs in Iran at the behest of his masters. But Obama would like to hold off on the Iranian campaign until after the mullahs nuke Israel. He’ll get a bigger tip.

  • Softly Bob

    America, you are now the laughing stock of the World. Kick this fork-tongued, Islamo-Marxist, seditious clown out of the White House.