One of the more amusing things to me over the last few years is watching the most devoted Obama acolytes claim over and over again that virtually every mistake he’s made or bad thing he’s done is really some secret, brilliant strategy that is just too sophisticated for mere mortals to understand. Ezra Klein says this has turned into a bit of a joke on the Hill when it comes to Syria:
Privately, Hill aides joke that everything is going exactly to President Obama’s plan. It’s just that that plan is to stay far, far away from Syria.
This is the (tongue-in-cheek) 12-dimensional chess interpretation of the Obama administration’s Syria strategy. Boxed in by red-line rhetoric and the Sunday show warriors, the Obama administration needed to somehow mobilize the opposition to war in Syria. It did that by “fumbling” the roll-out terribly…
The Obama administration’s strategy to cool the country on this war without expressly backing away from the president’s red lines has been brilliant, Hill aides say (just look at the polls showing overwhelming opposition!). If they are going to go to war, their efforts to goad Congress into writing a punitively narrow authorization of force that sharply limits any potential for escalation have worked beautifully.
Believing anything else — like this is how the administration is actually leading the United States into conflict — is too unsettling.
Is this some brilliant strategic design? Force the House to acknowledge that there is no public support for war against Syria … and move unilaterally and fast first to force the UN to become more aggressive, and even get Putin’s possible assent to future action if more inspections prove Assad’s use of CWs to be deliberate and undeniable?
I wish I could believe it. The sheer weakness of the case for war is so obvious perhaps Obama is waiting for us to make him pull back before it’s too late. The delay could put more pressure on Putin ahead of the G-20. There are many twists and turns possible. But I am afraid I don’t believe it. Occam’s razor is the best bet here. Obama made a foolish pledge to go to war if chemical weapons are used, and now his bluff has been called by Assad.
The one thing I can possibly by is that Obama is going to Congress to give him a way out from that foolish “red line” statement. It’s possible that he painted himself into a corner and is now hoping Congress airlifts him above the mess. But that’s a very different thing from this idea that Obama is playing 12-dimensional chess. There’s a big difference from cleverly using reverse psychology and screwing up and that trying to get someone else to clean up his mess before he’s forced by his own blunder to make a far bigger one.