Obama Draws Red Line, Looks for Wite-Out

By | September 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

 

Those of us who grew up with typewriters were familiar with Wite-Out and similar products. When we made a typo, we covered it up with the thick, white liquid, waited for the liquid to dry, then typed the correction.

But in real life, there is no Wite-Out. When we do something, it’s done. We can try to counter it if we feel we made an error. But the error still stands. And we will be reminded of that error at the most inconvenient times.
As military officers and martial-arts experts teach, we fight like we train. This principle applies elsewhere. Lawyers and others who train with papers tend to see life that way. In the past, they used Wite-Out and handed in a corrected paper. Now they simply use a computer to overtype or cut-and-paste. And the error disappears.
But they tend to see real life that way. They believe, perhaps subconsciously, that altering a statement or a position somehow deletes the original statement. It doesn’t. People have memories. And memory tends to be sharpest for the things that we would most like people to forget.
A year ago, President Obama discussed the Syrian civil war. He knew that the Assad regime possessed chemical weapons – poison gas – and had actually used them on its own people. He declared that if the regime used chemical weapons now, it would cross a “red line.” Obama modified the statement by using words like “calculus” and “equation,” suggesting that he would use mathematical logic in deciding how to react. However, these pompous but meaningless words could not take away from the threat clearly implied by the term “red line.”
The president also declared that Assad “must step aside.” But he said nothing about how Assad would be forced to go, or who or what would replace Assad. So the world heard two tough-sounding declarations from Obama: Use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” and in any case Assad must go.
Despite a terribly bloody civil war, Assad shows not the slightest inclination to step down. He is backed by Iran, a nation of 75 million people. Iran has a large army, sponsors the terrorist organization Hezbollah (“Army of God”), and is well on its way to developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
If that weren’t enough, Assad is also sponsored by Russia. Aside from opposing the United States at every turn, Putin wants to maintain access to Syria’s Mediterranean port for Russian warships. In effect, Russia has a Mediterranean naval base.
If the U.N. or the U.S. had acted to squash Syria’s poison gas factories and storehouses years ago, when Iran was still weak, we might have succeeded. But now Syria has powerful sponsors as well as a large supply of gas, so what can we do? If we strike the facilities with cruise missiles or bombs, Syria may use gas-laden missiles against Israel, igniting a wider war. The bombing itself may cause release of gas, killing thousands. And if we kill Assad, rebels allied with Al Qaeda may seize the containers of gas – making them available to terrorists the world over.
There really is no good answer. If Obama had said nothing, we might ignore the current slaughter, just as we ignored the slaughter in Darfur and Rwanda. That option was hardly a shining example of moral behavior, but at least it was an option. But after Obama issued his declaration, it remains an option only if we wish the world to see us as both immoral and impotent, not an attractive combination.
The Assad regime is one of the most odious on Earth. Still, in view of its Russian and Iranian sponsors, one might think that the president would be very careful about making threats – unless he had carefully considered the implications and was fully prepared to carry out the threats if necessary. One would be wrong.
Obama’s “red line” and “Assad must step aside” were not the declarations of the leader of a powerful nation. They were more like the statements of a graduate student in an academic seminar. In a seminar, clever but unrealistic ideas get high marks. In the real world, they get people killed.
According to our best information, nerve gas has been used repeatedly against Syrian rebels, including women and children. Videos of the dead are on TV nightly. Even Turkey agrees that the Assad regime used poison gas. The only question remaining is whether some faction of the rebels – perhaps allied with Al Qaeda – might have gotten hold of some of Assad’s poison gas, and used it to put the blame on the Assad regime. How this possibility could be completely ruled out is difficult to imagine. But surveillance can reveal that the regime ordered the use of gas, and from where the missiles were launched.
That is, we are able to prove that the Assad regime used gas. We cannot completely rule out that the rebels might have used it also. But is this an excuse to say “A plague on both your houses” and do nothing?
Germany used poison gas in World War I, and Britain and America responded with limited use themselves. The gases used included mustard gas, which blisters the skin, burns the eyes, and damages the lungs. My wife’s uncle was gassed while serving in the U.S. Army, suffered permanent lung damage, and died young.
Hitler was temporarily blinded by mustard gas while serving as a private first class in the war. He never used gas on troops in World War II, perhaps for this reason, and perhaps because we were prepared to retaliate. He did, of course, use cyanide gas in the death camps to murder millions of Jews and others. Is it any wonder that Israelis are especially horrified by poison gas in a neighboring nation?
Based on the revulsion to the use of poison gas in World War I, the international community – so beloved by liberals – adopted the Geneva Gas Protocol in 1925, banning all poisonous gases. This prohibition was observed, at least for armed forces, during World War II, the most terrible war in history. But now, if we see evidence of deaths from poison gas in our living rooms on TV nightly, and we do nothing, we will have effectively repealed the Geneva Gas Protocol.
And what will we do if Al Qaeda releases nerve gas in the New York subways, which carry about 4 million people every weekday? Critics will object, “You did nothing when Arabs were gassed to death. Now you weep and wail. What colossal hypocrites!” What excuse will we offer for our indifference and apathy? What pretext will we propose for turning our backs on international agreements?
To make matters worse, President Obama reversed our longstanding policy to retaliate with nuclear weapons if chemical or biological weapons were used against us. This policy made sense. We do not have chemical or biological weapons. Our only weapons of mass destruction are nuclear. But Obama promised to use nuclear weapons only if nuclear weapons are used against us. What will we do if chemical or biological weapons are used against us? He didn’t say.
In short, (1) An impotent U.N. is in effect abolishing the Geneva Gas Protocol, and (2) Obama has assured our potential enemies that they need not fear nuclear retaliation if they use chemical or biological weapons against us. That is, international apathy and President Obama have made chemical or biological attack on the United States more likely. This conclusion is inescapable.
In real life, there is no Wite-Out. Red lines, once drawn, remain for all to see. We ignore them at our peril. President Obama can go to the U.N., which will surely turn him down with a Russian veto. He can go to Congress, which will probably turn him down. In fact, Obama decided to go to Congress only after Parliament turned down Prime Minister Cameron. This suggests that Obama hopes Congress will turn him down, thus seeming to rescue him from his “red line” threat. But the threat remains. There is no Wite-Out. And in effect, there will also be no more Geneva Gas Protocol.
A world without law is a jungle. Toothless tigers don’t last long in a jungle. And lack of teeth is never more obvious than when the tiger yawns in laziness and indifference.

 

 

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