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There are folks on site putting forth the idea President Obama has somehow been either brilliant or 'lucky' (but suggesting that he himself created his own luck.)  And a lot of people have signed on to support that idea.

I've got to say, I think it's just wishful thinking on the part of those who simply want the President to be a 'winner' here.

But take a look at what's actually happened, and what the results have been.

Quite a while back, Syrian rebels started a civil war in Syria.

While supporting other Arab Spring uprisings, even to the point of sending in attacks in Libya, the US turned a blind eye to the fighting in Syria.

The US President was asked why we weren't going into Syria, as we had in Libya.

He made a statement that kept us out of the conflict, but threw in a line about a 'red line' of chemical weapons.  (My conjecture is that he felt that saying so would keep Assad from using such weapons.)

By conventional means, Assad killed over sixty thousand of his own people, most of whom were not rebels, but merely collateral damage.  

The US continued to ignore the killing of civilians in Syria, as well as the displacement of far greater numbers of refugees.

At this point, chemical weapons were used, killing over 1000 people.  The Assad regime seems, by available evidence, to be responsible, although some suggest that the orders may not have actually come from Assad.

Many people proclaimed that the 'red line' had been crossed, and that the President must now act in accordance with his earlier words.

(Now I'm going to stop simply listing facts, and there will be some words that imply my own beliefs as to the meaning of certain actions, such as 'walk back'.)

The President both attempted to walk back his earlier words (by saying things like 'It was the world's red line, not mine'.) and at the same time push for some 'limited' attack that would allow him to say that he had acted in line with his earlier words.

The American people, in poll after poll, and in calls to and meetings with their Congresspeople, expressed an overwhelming opposition to intervention in Syria.  Overwhelming opposition to the President's stated plans to 'deal with' Syria.

The Brits vote not to be part of any military strikes on Syria.

Assad proclaimed that if the US attacked, we should expect 'anything' in response.

The Russians opposed intervention against Assad.

SoS Kerry, while still pushing military intervention, made a hypothetical remark about Assad giving up his weapons to the international community.

The Russians immediately jump in, and take that hypothetical, and apparently get Assad to agree.

So after all that, who benefits?

The Us President is an intelligent man, and a good politician.  He has taken all sorts of political damage over the last few months as a result of his continued pushing for a military response to the use of chemical weapons.  His approval numbers on his handling of Syria are dismal.  Even if he 'gets lucky' and we avoid such military action by this latest proposal, he has only succeeded in undoing the political problem he himself created with his earlier words.  He has not ended the ongoing deaths in Syria, he has not burnished his credibility on foreign policy.

The only way I can see that an intelligent politician such as the President can benefit from the corner his own earlier words painted him into would be if I dove even into '12 dimensional chess' and posited that there was some greater purpose served, that the President was willing to take the beating on Syria simply to prevent attention being paid to something else that would be even more damaging.  A 'wag the dog' scenario.

There is no real benefit to the President otherwise, as he has wound up politically more damaged from dealing with Syria than had he never made his 'red line' comments, no matter what happens at this point.  At best, he has managed to limit the damage to his own agenda slightly.

So who benefits?

Who made lemonade out of lemons here?

Russia.

Whether Russia met with Kerry beforehand and brought up the idea of Assad handing over his weapons or not, when Kerry decided to actually mention such a course, Russia jumped in, and Assad immediately signs on.

Russia (and Putin) suddenly look like the 'good guys', creating a way to avoid escalating conflict outside of Syria, burnishing their own street cred by making what seemed like a highly unlikely hypothetical real at breakneck speed.  

Even Assad comes off looking more reasonable, willing to respond to diplomacy.

The US looks like it was racing to war, having not even explored all diplomatic options to avoid such.

So I'm sorry, but while the President is undoubtedly highly intelligent, the current state of affairs is not lucky for him, nor does it seem the result of his own 'brilliance'.  If he was either, he would have gained political ground over the last few months, not lost it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We all benefit if there is a diplomatic solution. (13+ / 0-)

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 07:57:56 AM PDT

    •  PS. Conservatives love (9+ / 0-)

      the authoritarian and homophobic Putin:

      Maddow Blog

      The list is fairly long and well worth checking out. On Fox, for example, Martha MacCallum cheered Putin for "coming to the diplomatic rescue," while Tucker Carlson similarly heralded Putin for "riding to President Obama's rescue" while Russia "humiliates the United States." Charles Krauthammer added that it's Putin's government that's "playing chess here with a set of rank amateurs."

      Coming on the heels of other conservatives celebrating Putin, the whole dynamic just seems to be increasingly creepy. When was the last time U.S. Republicans were so vocal about their affections for a former KGB official with an authoritarian streak?

      .

      So there will be a big FoxNews push to glorify Putin.  

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by TomP on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:00:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Precisely. (9+ / 0-)

      I don't care if it was 11th dimension chess or dumb luck, and I can't believe people are using bandwidth to argue about which it is.  Let's just push for the diplomatic solution.

      Cake or DEATH? Oh, I'll have cake, please.

      by wmtriallawyer on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:02:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When you look at everything through the (6+ / 0-)

        prism of politics, then everything becomes a question of who is winning and who is losing politically.

        But politics isn't the real world. Out in the real world, it may just become at least a little bit less likely that men, women, and children will be gassed to death.

        That's a good thing. And I don't care who gets credit for it, or who gets blamed for "looking bad."

        •  In the 'real world' (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          unfangus, carver, aliasalias

          who is 'winning' and 'losing' politically determines who is in power, who makes the decisions as to whether or not people get food stamps or are left to starve, whether we continue to rely on and expand fossil fuel use, and therefore doom more people to starve worldwide as crop failures, floods and fires become more common.

          Politics matters.  And who gets credit determines who gets to continue to make important decisions about keeping people alive, or sacrificing them for corporate profit.

          •  During an elections campaign (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, Deep Texan, doroma

            sure.

            But media now covers the horse race constantly, 365 days a year, every year. There's precious little, if any, discussion of policy, and I think we suffer for it.

            It's superficial and it stupids down our discourse. It would be far better to talk about the policy of food stamps, the social safetly net, global warming and issues of substance.

            You're here on a progressive blog, so I assume you do care about those issues. Republicans certainly don't. So I will ask you how you think it helps get action in the right direction for you to write a horse race style diary in which you portray a Democratic president in a poor light? What do you think this accomplishes?

            •  First, I think politics is 24/7/365. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              unfangus, carver

              Ideas and things reported in the media build a general view that carries over into other fights.

              So I will ask you how you think it helps get action in the right direction for you to write a horse race style diary in which you portray a Democratic president in a poor light? What do you think this accomplishes?
              Well, first, I reject the notion that problems lie in people reporting on them, rather than in the actual actions.  If I'm 'able' to write a diary 'portraying' the President in a 'poor light', it's because he has actually first acted in a way that reflects poorly on himself - by speaking like a Republican back when he made the 'red line' comments.

              If I were to suggest that I might hope anything would be 'accomplished', it would be that Democrats realize that they hurt their own credibility, as well as the Party, when they try to co-opt Republican war-hawkishness.

              The party will become stronger when its candidates realize they can simply win by being Democrats, rather than trying to become hybrid Democrat/Republicans.

              •  ah, I see (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wmtriallawyer

                So, for example, if Fox New is similarly able to portray the President (or any Democrat, for that matter) in a poor light, it's their own fault, too?

                Did it ever occur to you that the President made the "red line" comment in the hope that it might deter Assad from using chemical weapons? That he was actually trying to stop some people from dying in a particularly ghastly way?

                Probably not. Because there's not particular political angle to that, right?

                If and when the Democratic Party becomes the party that doesn't give a fuck about human rights in this world, then you can count me out, immediately.

                •  Actually (0+ / 0-)
                  Did it ever occur to you that the President made the "red line" comment in the hope that it might deter Assad from using chemical weapons? That he was actually trying to stop some people from dying in a particularly ghastly way?

                  Probably not. Because there's not particular political angle to that, right?

                  I specifically noted that that was likely his intent in one of my comments either in this diary or one of the others.   That he probably assumed that he could do the same old macho BS the Republicans do, and it would cow Assad into submission.

                  And that that hope appears to have failed him.  Because acting like Republicans is always a bad idea.

    •  That sounds nice, but to what extent? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      carver

      My point is not that there is not benefit in a non-military solution being achieved, but that overall, the President has lost ground politically over his words and proposed actions in regard to Syria, so the claim that what is occurring can be attributed to his personal 'brilliance' or 'luck' seems far-fetched.

      His 'red line' statement earlier obviously failed to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  And we've ignored all of the other deaths in Syria, so diplomacy over US strikes really doesn't benefit those killed or displaced already in Syria, or those who will continue to be killed and displaced after we do or do not strike.

  •  100,00 is the total number of dead (3+ / 0-)

    not those killed by the Syrian regime.  That number is about 60,000, with the rebels having killed the rest.

  •  And when the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

    diplomatic solution falls apart (how hard will it be for the UN to secure this stuff DURING a war) or they just cheat to get around it (Yep, that's all we have. 16 gallons.)

    Then how much will it look like a win?

  •  Your argument is predicated (4+ / 0-)

    on the premise that the President would only deliberately act in furtherance of his own political interests, and not on the principle that it is in everyone's interests around the world to stop the use of chemical weapons in international or in domestic conflict.

    If that premise is rejected, your argument becomes flawed.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:20:27 AM PDT

  •  the state department walked back kerry's dare (4+ / 0-)

    then russia jumped on it, and syria opened the door.

    then the white house walked back the walk back.

    the timeline is obvious.

    and anyone who thinks russia was responding to gunboat diplomacy needs to ask themselves whether they believe russia was oblivious to the momentum against an aumf in congress.

    bottom line: russia saw an opportunity, and took it. if it works out, everyone can pat themselves on the back and claim victory. let's hope it works out.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:23:31 AM PDT

  •  More facts & context: Jihadis, Region, Putin, etc. (2+ / 0-)

    Erich,

    Your diary's list of facts omits some other important facts and context, including:

    A. Most importantly:

    1. Saudi Arabia & Qatar, panicked by the (W Admin-engineered) geographical crescent of Iranian allies running through the governments of Iraq and Syria to the South Lebanon stronghold of Hizbollah, shoveled money and arms at (substantially non-Syrian) Sunni-Jihadists in order to greatly expand an initially small Syrian rebellion.

    2. The US was faced with the likelihood that the Assad regime permanently losing control over all or a major part of Syria could result in creation of a new base from which Sunni-Jihadists could launch attacks throughout the region and the world.  

    3. Obama and Kerry were also faced with the risk that escalation of the war in Syria could pre-empt the possibility of compromise with Iran’s newly elected more-moderate government, thereby enabling hawks in Iran-US-Israel to regain momentum in pushing for military confrontations among these countries.

    B. Also likely significant:

    Somebody (most likely with Putin’s consent) leaked graphic details of Putin’s angry (“liver-eaters”) rejection of attempts by new Saudi intelligence chief (and old intimate of Bush family) Bandar to brandish Saudi control of Sunni-Jihadists as a carrot and stick to obtain Russian cooperation to a change in Syria’s government that would sever the above crescent.

    C. Consequences of the above include:

    1. Obama’s lack of attractive unilateral options, and the pressure on him to select a bad aggressive option, was aggravated by the use of chemical weapons (an aggravation which I suspect probably would not have been very different if Obama had never used the word “red line” in connection with chemical weapon usage).

    2. Meanwhile, Obama’s multilateral options were limited by Putin, who (per above, and by later denouncing Kerry as a liar) is departing from typical diplomatic protocol and realpolitik in a manner that appears at least partially emotional (whether genuine or pretended for effect).

    D. Conclusions:

    If the above factors are taken into account, it is easy to come to a somewhat different evaluation of ‘where Obama’s political situation started, and where it is now’.

    BTW, I flag the above points as somebody who has found much to criticize in Kerry's references to "Munich", and by Rice's emphasis on gory pictures of victims, etc.

    •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

      I'm sure there's plenty I've left out, even beyond and above what you added.  I rather cut short a reply above to another commenter, to avoid going into an evaluation of the benefits of continuing a policy of 'American exceptionalism' - some people believe it is in our long term interests to continue to play 'Team America, World Police'.  My own feeling is that we (and the rest of the world) would benefit from the US taking a role more as part of the larger world community, than continually pushing for aggressive military actions unilaterally, or after simply collecting a group of nations who feel they owe us as a 'shield' to prevent accusations of unilateral actions.

      Ie, if it is 'the world's red line', then we should not always be the prime mover.

  •  You probably missed some critical steps (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Texan, doroma
    SoS Kerry, while still pushing military intervention, made a hypothetical remark about Assad giving up his weapons to the international community.

    The Russians immediately jump in, and take that hypothetical, and apparently get Assad to agree.

    The above doesn't "just happen". There are reports Putin and Obama discussed this at the G20 - and that kind of conversation doesn't "just happen" either. There had to have been back room conversations with all parties leading up to this point - probably involving Russia, the US, the Saudis, some of the Syrian leadership, and others. (And Ban ki-moon didn't "just happen" to simultaneously dream up the same idea himself, so he presumably was in on those earlier discussions at some level).  

    Now, I'm not going to suggest nth dimensional chess to the point that Obama planned all this out before making the red line comment, but I am convinced he hasn't just been bopping along on the waves of happenstance for the past months, either.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:21:54 AM PDT

    •  I specifically skipped making up 'what ifs' (0+ / 0-)

      about those meetings in the diary, because I wasn't there, and don't know how they went.

      But I think you have to suspect self-interest on the part of all parties involved.  Syria has no reason to want to make the US look good, and neither does Russia.  Both have a much more likely interest in making the US look bad, especially in light of the bad blood between the US and Russia over the last few months.

      I do suspect the idea was floated, but I think it just as likely that it was floated as an extreme longshot, even though the Russians probably felt they could make it happen if they actually saw advantage in doing so.

      •  Self interest - of course (0+ / 0-)

        No international diplomacy, by anybody, is based on selflessness. As to what the self interests are, it's not all about us. Making the US look bad might be a bennie, but probably isn't the driving force - or even in the top three - for any of them.

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:21:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I agree with your question. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

    I'm not sure the answer can be divined at this point.

    I think everyone benefits if we prevent, or even delay, military action in Syria because I believe that's a recipe for disaster on a massive scale.  I think dealing with Assad and the whole mess is a no-win situation.

    It's not 11th D Chess.  It's a mass of conflicting and overlapping agendas on many levels. I'm not sure how much Obama has lost politically if it gets Syria off the front burner.

    I believe Assad as much as I would have believed Saddam Hussein or Qaddaffi--which is not at all. But the name of the game is postponement (or even partial, temporary containment).  

    Reasonable minds can differ--there are many here (yourself included) who have a much better grasp of what's going on over there.  I just know I'll be happy if we have delayed military intervention. I'm not sure how concerned I am that Putin can strut and crow.

    YMMV.

    (That sound you are hearing is a paradigm being shifted at Warp Factor Infinity using no clutch.)

    by homogenius on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 01:45:25 PM PDT

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