American Elephants

Red Lines and Nerve Gas by The Elephant's Child


The White House admitted yesterday what has been known for some time. The Syrian regime has used chemical weapons to attack its own people. In 2010, Barack Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” for the United States, a “game changer” that would theoretically move the White House in an undefined way from its position of studied indifference.

The opposition has accused the Assad regime for some time of using chemical agents, but the White House has dismissed the claims. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that the United States now believes “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its people. Whatever “varying degrees of confidence” means. Hagel said the intelligence community has been assessing the problem. Other countries have reached the same conclusion with a high degree of confidence. Except they aren’t usually expected to do anything about it.

Theoretically, when you announce a “red line”, a “game changer,” you have set in motion something like the entire Pentagon deciding what you should do about it. Threats that are just repeated with “varying degrees of confidence” elicit little confidence from either the people or any of the players. 70,000 dead is a lot of people.

If American aid can help to cause Assad’s downfall and lead to his replacement by a non-radical replacement, we should help. If getting rid of Assad simply means installing another radical regime, then we shouldn’t be talking about “red lines.”

Ideally, a leader of a regime who uses nerve gas on his people should have a giant fist descend like a hammer directly on his head, so its like will never be repeated. But ideal circumstances seldom happen. Dithering, needing ever more information, consulting with the UN and going all wishy-washy only makes the U.S, weak and our enemies bold, and that is the worst of all worlds.

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Going with personal experience so far as Chuck Hagel is concerned, “…varying degrees of confidence…” probably means something along the lines of “our entire intelligence apparatus, confirmed by foreign intelligence sources, believes that Assad did this, but I don’t”.

And that red line? According to Obama, it’s not an “on/off switch”. It simply means that he will “change his thinking” about the situation… a perfectly meaningless statement, since we have no idea what his thoughts were before (I suspect, a “strongly-worded letter”… delivered by our milksop Secretary of State… is in the offing).

As I have mentioned before, the Obama administrations actions continually remind of so many stand-up comedy routines. This episode make me think of George Carlin talking about London police and their lack of firearms… When challenging criminals, they yell “STOP!… or I’ll yell STOP again!”. This is Obama. He threatens the use of force, and then when called on it, he simply threatens some more. Only they are not quite threats. More like disapproval. “We do not approve… we will not tolerate… we strongly object to…”. But nothing ever happens. And after a while, the people you are talking to stop listening, because they know you will never do anything but talk.

Obama hasn’t figured out that he has already traveled well beyond the point where foreign leaders take him seriously. The allies we should be supporting have decided that they can’t depend on him for action, and our enemies know they have little to fear from him.


Comment by Lon Mead

I think that perhaps Obama has a movie reel running in his head that is about his accomplishments, and he is the hero, of course, so the negatives are edited out and the positives have a special glow. He seems to treat some events that I consider real negatives as successes. For example he counts only the jobs created and adds them up to get an important sounding total, but never subtracts those who have dropped out of the work force entirely.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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