Kolohe: Obama had these long standing reservations against what most of what his government was doing and planning – and said nothing to no one. That’s…incredibly piss poor leadership.
If you go back to Obama’s statements at the time, the record for someone seeking a defense of Obama’s leadership is even more difficult, in my opinion, although it’s not a major interest of mine to attack or defend Obama personally. Still, he was clearly reluctant about Syria all the way along. It wasn’t as though suddenly in August 2013 he got neo-isolationist religion. Long prior to the mass atrocity at East Ghouta, his policy on Syria appeared confused and contradictory, as in the tragicomical on and off search for supportable rebels to arm and train. Even the original “red line” statement, which is quoted in the piece, was studiously ambiguous about what might occur if and when the line was crossed, and in fact about what the line actually consisted of.
Obama seemed to be hoping that a legacy of American “credibility” on such threats would be sufficient to make this one work, without acknowledging – perhaps according to all the best and latest political scientific critiques of “credibility” – the possible damage to American credibility that his own policies had reinforced.
Was it ever really believable to Assad and his allies that the U.S. would be ready to climb the escalation ladder in Syria? Or was it more likely laughable?
Democratic or left-liberal thinking on the credibility question is actually quite split, as indicated by the differences observed elsewhere on this thread regarding HRC’s “parental” understanding of presidential threats, or the tangled critique of Obama’s possible bluff about bluffing, etc. The problem goes to a much larger issue and set of contradictions. If you re-read Obama’s own statements to the nation in the aftermath of his reversal and then his abortive campaign to get public and congressional permission to strike, they have a forlorn tone: He continues to say that he still believes “we” should punish Assad for the atrocity, but he acknowledges that we won’t. He turns the matter into a profound collective self-indictment, with himself as neurotic enabler in chief.