Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dare You to Cross That Line

I can remember seeing a cartoon when I was young in which one character drew a line in the dirt and dared an antagonist to cross the line. When the antagonist promptly stepped across the mark the character backed up and drew another line and again dared the foe to cross that one. Of course, he did and the character had to back up again and draw a third line making himself look both foolish and irresolute.

Barack Obama is making himself look like that character. According to an article in the NYT:
When President Obama first warned Syria’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, that even making moves toward using chemical weapons would cross a “red line” that might force the United States to drop its reluctance to intervene in the country’s civil war, Mr. Obama took an expansive view of where he drew that boundary.

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” he said at an Aug. 20 news conference. He added: “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”

But in the past week, amid intelligence reports that some precursor chemicals have been mixed for possible use as weapons, Mr. Obama’s “red line” appears to have shifted. His warning against “moving” weapons has disappeared from his public pronouncements, as well as those of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The new warning is that if Mr. Assad makes use of those weapons, presumably against his own people or his neighbors, he will face unspecified consequences.

It is a veiled threat that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta repeated Thursday: “The president of the United States has made very clear that there will be consequences, there will be consequences if the Assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people.”
This sounds like playground threats. "You better not cross that line or else I'll...I'll do something, and you won't like it."

If the threat to do something if Assad uses the weapons sounds like playground rhetoric, the excuse for not having done anything yet sounds reminiscent of Bill Clinton's "It all depends on what the definition of 'is' is." Here's the Times:
The White House says the president has not changed his position at all — it is all in the definition of the word “moving.”

Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said Thursday that “ ‘moving around’ means proliferation,” as in allowing extremist groups like Hezbollah, which has training camps near the weapons sites, to obtain the material.
So when the Assad regime finally decides to thumb its nose at Mr. Obama and use the weapons against the rebels perhaps we'll be told by the administration that actually what the president meant by "using" those weapons was "using them against us," and since the Syrians haven't used them against us we should not entangle ourselves in their domestic affairs, etcetera.

By the way, from whence did the Syrians get those biological and chemical weapons, and why isn't the media wondering about that? Remember when the search for precisely these kinds of munitions in Iraq came up empty, how much abuse George Bush took for having claimed in the first place that the Iraqis had them. "Bush lied, people died" and all that. Remember, too, that convoys of trucks were seen moving from Iraq toward Syria immediately prior to our invasion of Iraq. Maybe Bush was right after all. No wonder the media isn't curious where Syria got these weapons from. The last thing the media would want is to raise the prospect that Bush had been right all along.