The Syria Confidence Trick

The world won’t be fooled by Obama.

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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