If the last seven days have taught us anything, it has to be this: The United States doesn’t have a president — it has a blusterer, a bluffer and a very bad poker player.
President Barack Obama is in way over his head when it comes to dealing with fiscal policy, understanding how the free market functions and negotiating with Congress. But his naiveté is particularly obvious when it comes to foreign relations. That shortcoming became crystal-clear over the last few days, with his handling of the Syrian civil war.
Since at least August, the president established a firm “red line” with Syria, insisting the use of chemical or biological weapons in the prosecution of its civil war would be a “game changer” that would instigate U.S. intervention.
I can’t help but think that when Obama drew that line, he was merely aping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s United Nations “red line” speech in September, when he described Israel’s limited tolerance of Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
But statements like that have to be backed up with a real intent to follow through.
In an excellent commentary in the Weekly Standard, Elliott Abrams recalled a National Security Council meeting that he attended as assistant secretary of state for Latin America when the Soviet Union was then about to send warplanes into Nicaragua.
“There was a unanimous view that we would not permit Russia to put advanced combat jets into Nicaragua and change the power balance that had existed in the region since the Cuban missile crisis,” Abrams wrote.
“After everyone said yes, let’s deliver that message, [Secretary of State] James Baker spoke up,” continued Abrams. “As I recall it, Baker said something like this: ‘Look, we are not agreeing here on sending a message. We are agreeing now that if they act, we will act. We’re not going to come back here in a month or three months or six months and say, gee, now what do we do?’”
In other words, heads of state don’t bluff. World leaders don’t bluff. Sovereign nations don’t bluff. They give their word and keep it as though their nations depend on it — because they do.
In light of Obama’s “red line,” Israel provided proof Syria had used sarin gas early last week. On Thursday Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel agreed “with some degree of varying confidence,”
That same day, the Daily Beast quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying: “The British have soil samples. When you have the Israelis, the French, the British and even some of our Arab friends saying this happened, I don’t know what the White House is really waiting for.”
That same day, the Daily Beast quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying: “The British have soil samples. When you have the Israelis, the French, the British and even some of our Arab friends saying this happened, I don’t know what the White House is really waiting for.”.
Israel knows how the game is played. Israel doesn’t bluff.
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