Oh, good God. Is this what our foreign policy has come to? That the President of the United States, heir in office to giants such as Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan, is going to attack another country so he won’t be called a wimp?
Hey, that’s not my description. Ask the infamous “unnamed US official:”
Some experts said U.S. warships and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean could fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets as early as Thursday night, beginning a campaign that could last two or three nights. Obama leaves next Tuesday for a four day trip to Sweden and Russia, which strongly supports Assad’s government, for the G-20 economic summit.
One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.
“They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.
And there you have it, friends. We have officially returned to the Clinton-era policy of “lob a few missiles to send a message” that worked so well against al Qaeda that we wound up with a smoking crater in Manhattan a few years later. It’s a finely calibrated public relations effort, meant to show that Urkel is really The Hulk, not really to stop Assad’s gassing of his own people.
Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against one’s own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and inescapably fatal.
If we fail to do that, if we just lob a few missiles in a weak version of Operation Desert Fox, then Assad will climb out of his bunker at the end and rightfully claim a victory — he stood up to the mighty United States and he’s still here. Imagine how Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing will interpret that “message.”
If the United States goes to war, then it has to be done in such a way that there is no doubt who the biggest dog in the junkyard is.
George W. Bush understood this well, when we liberated Iraq: he had the military hunt down Saddam’s sons and kill them, and Saddam himself was dragged from a hidey-hole to be hanged. All the top Baathists were targets. The goal was to show the world that not only were these men beaten, they were unmistakably crushed and wouldn’t be coming back.
Now, in the age of Smart Power, the goal is to avoid being laughed at.
UPDATE: John Steele Gordon also notes the “all about me” angle.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)