Barack and Bashar: A Miraculous Pull from the Deep?

At the time I was putting the final edits to my latest column at First Things, things were looking as bleak as could be for President Obama and, of course, for the United States.

At this writing, the headlines are chaotic and confused, and the administration seems uncertain about what it wants or needs to do, but confident that some action—perhaps “unbelievably small” action, according to the Secretary of State–must be taken, by someone, and pretty soon. . .or maybe later.

What an awful position Obama has put the country in. If we do nothing, we present ourselves as toothless and give Assad (and other nefarious players) tacit permission to use chemical weapons with seeming impunity. If we do something, but try to keep it small we risk seeming like a nation of Herods. He, recall, made a rash promise to Salome and then became willing to serve up a measure of collateral damage (John the Baptist’s head, to be precise) for the sake of saving face.

For the past week, while the whole world watched, Obama and his administration handled the Syria question as a kind of hourly slapstick calamity short. We were hearing that a military gesture on our part, no matter how small, might be necessary to save our credibility, and the president’s.

But the diminishment of Obama’s stature (and ours) had already become an accomplished fact. At this point we were (and are) talking mere degrees.

Some time after turning in my copy, however, there was a miracle! A bumptious and accidental miracle, as befits, the a Three Stooges reel, but God does answer prayers in any way he sees fit — and world received this “accidental solution” on the Monday following a weekend of prayer and fasting.

And no one ever said God doesn’t have a sense of humor:

Washington’s crisis over Syria started with a gaffe. Another gaffe may very well end it.

If the Obama administration’s response to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons appears erratic, improvised and incoherent, that’s because it has been, ever since the president declared the use of chemical weapons to constitute a “red line” that apparently prompted US action. A different improvisation, from his secretary of state on Monday, offered the Obama administration an opportunity to climb back from the brink of a war Obama initially wanted to avoid.

I eagerly await hearing some ambitious, dim-witted young female reporter chasing down the president and shouting, “but what about your gaffes?”

Anyway, here’s what happened, via Emily Zanotti:

. . .John Kerry made a flippant remark about asking Syria to turn their chemical weapons over to the international community if they didn’t want airborne killing robots invading their airspace.

And that’s when the sun came out and the birds started singing and the unicorns began prancing through the underbrush and John Kerry discovered that this diplomacy thing is so easy even he can do it.

America’s top diplomat suggested in a passing remark that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S.-led strike if he handed over all his chemical weapons, but the State Department quickly dismissed the comment as more of a “rhetorical argument” than an offer. . .Kerry delivered the statement almost dismissively and quickly said Assad had no intention of giving up “weapons he denies using.” But it was still the first time such a suggestion had been made by the Obama administration.

The administration immediately freaked out and denied that the statement was anything more than Kerry’s patented “thinking out loud,” best exemplified by his deep thoughts on the need for ground troops in last week’s Congressional hearings, calling the remarks “rhetorical” and reiterating that the Administration has already discounted a diplomatic resolution.

So, it’s an oops. But it’s a brilliant oops, right?

Face saved. Larry, Moe and Curly Joe couldn’t have oops’d it better. The administration, unsurprisingly, immediately began to spin new thread for the Emperor’s clothes. As Ed Morrissey notes, this “solution” only delivers the world back to the status quo, but it also “buys time” for the administration and the congress to actually develop plans, policies, strategies and tactics that are not simply reactions to the latest bumble.

Still, if this blundering solution halts a dubious military enterprise no one wanted, then thanks be to God. It’s not “peace” as any of us desire it. But it’s a start.

Meanwhile, what’s that picture at the top all about? Well, you’ll have to go here to find out.

What now? What next?
“A slow-motion Bay of Pigs”
Rescued: Hollywood breaths a sigh of relief
Surreal photos of the civil war in Syria

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • nannon31

    It’s a substantial move forward by Russia, Assad and Obama now; and one that would not have happened without the threat Obama made as motivating context behind the whole serendipitous incident. Threat has its place. Christ moved money changers from the temple with a whip not from talking it out.
    Who we need to pray for each day is every Christian faced with the temptation to apostasize from Christ as they face an al Nusra machine gun far from cameras. They …jihadists amongst the anti government force…are a bigger problem for Christians than Assad even more so now that he is in compromise mode on one area.. Pray for any who have denied Christ far behind the headlines. If the moderates and Assad will someday move toward the Pope’s dialogue, there remains the organized extremists who have done much of the fighting against Assad and who win only by victory or death both of which they prefer to normal life.

  • Maureen55

    Actually Putin has pulled Obama out of the fire because he seems to be the only leader willing to actually follow through (and THAT is not a pleasant thought – an exKGB guy as leader of the world – shutter!). But unfortunately it will NOT stop the killing and since the ‘rebels’ also appear to have chemical weapons – what now!!?

    As a Canadian I look south and feel great sorrow for my American neighbours to have such an inexperienced (even after 6 years in power) and ineffective leader. I only hope that either party is able to put forward some one (anyone please) in 2016 that has a more coherent view of the world and the US’ place in it.

    I can’t help but think that the Obama administration has been watching too many reruns of Star Wars and they think that the Syrian rebels are akin to the rebel alliance – NOT. ALL sides in the Syrian civil war (and their various supporters) are nasty people – start from that point and build.

  • Ron Turner

    Bary got played by Putin, again. This is news?

  • slainte

    Mr. Assad has denied any involvement by his government in the alleged chemical poisoning of some Syrians. Since no formal, objective inquiry has unequivocally found Assad’s regime guilty of these heinous crimes, why should a sovereign country have to cede its sovereignity by turning over its weapons or agree to subject them to inspection by an international body?
    Without a formal finding of guilt on Assad’s part, Secretary of State Kerry’s proposed solution does not appear to be a proportional one.

  • flartrocker

    Silly, silly Francis. Like that prayer thing on Saturday was going to actually affect anything.

  • Wim Chase

    At least Kerry had a vision of how it could be solved that allowed him to communicate it on the fly. He must have thought about it prior, but how sad that he and the adminstration are such pessimists that they didn’t make such a proposal to the Russians formally. What did they have to lose? The Russians and Syrians , if they had said no, would have looked even more guilty and dangerous by virtue of the fact that they wanted to hold onto chemical weapons. Kerry at al are missing a long term aim, a mission and purpose, which ought to be to try to keep LIVING innocents safe GOING FORWARD. Punishment will not bring anyone back, and it along with ‘saving face’ are the most primitive of foreign poilcies imaginable. Obama and Kerry might pull this off in spite of themselves. Let’s hope so.

  • potkas7

    In Chess it’s called “Fools Mate.”

  • Augustine

    It’s a new century indeed when a sane voice for peace comes from Moscow and a rabid voice for war comes from Washington.

  • TXRed

    Slainte, a German intelligence ship off the Syrian coast has recordings of Assad denying his officers’ requests to use chemical weapons. And now it seems that the children shown in the videos were kidnapped Alawites. It behooves everyone to step back and look at things even more closely before anyone presses the Syrian government to “do this or else.” Assad is not a saint by any means, but neither are the people fighting against him.

  • Victor

    (((So, it’s an oops. But it’s a brilliant oops, right?)))

    Anchoress that reminds me of when I use to be a fanatic at a Pro church and believe “IT” or not, the name of the good priest, “I” think was “Victor” and truth be known, “I’M” sure that he thought that “I” was not playing with a full deck, if YA know what “I” mean? Back then, “I” could sing and play guitar and so a Saintly woman who was in charge of The Choir allowed me to sing ten her, “I” mean ten or…no, no, tenor. Anyway she later after mass allowed me to go and show off my talent to some children who in reality had more cards missing then “I” did.

    “I” must say that “I” did tell our good Bishop in writing years ago about what happened. Anyway, after my little skit, one child asked me if “I” would let him try out my guitar and of course, “I” allowed him but was very careful that he didn’t have an accident with the guitar that our youngest daughter now owns.

    Long story short, “IT” was like a twilight zone movie that “I” lived cause as he was trying to play, “I” could feel my body being trained of all of my talent and longer story shorter, as he was starting to sound better, “I” quickly and as politely as possible managed to get my guitar back but from then on, “I” never again volunteered to go and play for these children and……

    END YA SAY sinner vic! Hey you forgot to tell the good folks about the pimple on my butt.


    Go figure brothers and sisters! :)

  • slainte

    Agreed. Sometimes we all need to take a deep breath and not rush so quickly into war.
    Our U.S Constitution operates to temper emotional situations by slowing down the decision making process. The Founders wanted our Congressional legislators to gather for the purpose of discussion, deliberation, weighing of known facts, and, upon due consideration, they may or may not declare war.
    This process is intentionally laborious and when properly executed results in sound, well thought out decisions which saves the lives of our brave young men and women soldiers while also maintaining the integrity of our nation.

    As Americans, we must once again cleave onto the Constitution and refuse to act rashly. Let’s give Peace and the U.S Constitution a chance.

  • Melody

    A few thoughts occur to me: for one, it seems like they are playing “good cop, bad cop”. Another, related to the first, is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes, that isn’t making it into the evening news (gee, I wonder why?). Kerry’s “thinking out loud” though labeled a gaffe, seems more likely to be according to a script (do we seriously believe that there has not been any diplomacy attempted?) A third thought is that this doesn’t seem to be playing out so badly right now, thanks at least in part to the president’s actions. But everybody knows he’s an idiot and stuff, so we have to be careful not to give him any credit, even if he did something that helped by accident.