Red Lines and Retreat

Thursday, President Barack Obama finally acknowledged what we’ve known—what our allies have demonstrated to us—for some months: that Bashar al Assad has been using chemical weapons on his own people for as long as a year and a half.

Obama’s big, wide, squishy red line, drawn last August during the Presidential Campaign season, has been crossed, he finally admits (coincidentally, the day after former President Bill Clinton said

(You just think how lame you’d be…suppose I had let a million people, two million people be refugees out of Kosovo, a couple hundred thousand people die, and they say, “You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs.  Why didn’t you do it?” And I say, “Because the House of Representatives voted 75% against it?”  You look like a total wuss, and you would be.
(If you refuse to act and you cause a calamity, the one thing you cannot say when all the eggs have been broken is, “Oh my god, two years ago there was a poll that said 80% of you were against it.”  You look like a total fool[.])

Crossing such a red line would change Obama’s “calculus,” he said at the time he smeared his red line in the sand.

But what does this mean in terms of actually doing anything?  Recall that Obama also has already said that changing his calculus means

It would cause us to rethink the range of options that are available to us[.]

Only now, having conceded that his line in the shifting sands survived long enough to be crossed irrefutably, will he begin to figure out what to do about it.  Starting next week.  In consultation with the G-8.  Because he doesn’t know what to do.  He didn’t start contingency planning when he painted his red decoration.

While Obama hides his head under the red sand, more Syrians will die.  Because he can’t, or refuses to, plan ahead; he’ll only plan reactively, in real time.  To figure out how to retreat from this commitment.

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