Times coverage of Obama's latest plan for Syria is brutal. Here is David Sanger with a News Analysis:
Tripping on His Own Red Line?
WASHINGTON — IT started with just 20 words, intended to keep Barack Obama out of a war. The tens of thousands dying in Syria was a global tragedy, he told reporters a year ago, when the worst horrors were still months away, but as commander in chief he had to focus on American strategic interests and could not intervene in every humanitarian tragedy around the world.
Then he offered his one caveat. “A red line for us,” he said, “is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Yet the sharply limited goals Mr. Obama has described in explaining his rationale for taking military action now — “a shot across the bow” to halt future chemical attacks, he told PBS — pose risks of their own. If President Bashar al-Assad emerges from a few days of Tomahawk missile barrages relatively unscathed, he will be able to claim that he faced down not only his domestic opponents but the United States, which he has charged is the secret hand behind the uprising.
In the words of one recently departed senior adviser to Mr. Obama, “the worst outcome would be making Assad look stronger.”
How did Mr. Obama find himself in this trap? Partly, it was an accident of history: in the early, heady days of the Arab uprisings, no one bet that Mr. Assad would survive this long, in a country where his Alawite sect is a minority.
But there is an argument that Mr. Obama’s own caution about foreign interventions put him in this box. Horrific as the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack was, it was no more horrific than the conventional attacks that caused the deaths of 100,000 Syrians. Those prompted only a minimal American response — international condemnations, some sporadic arms shipments for a ragtag group of rebels, and an understandable reluctance by an American president to get on the same side of the civil war as Al Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
Now the crossing of the red line has forced Mr. Obama’s hand. He says he is intervening to stop the use of a specific weapon whose use in World War I shocked the world. But he is not intervening to stop the mass killing, or to remove the man behind those attacks.
Mark Landler is also unsparing:
President Pulls Lawmakers Into Box He Made
After two years of resisting deeper involvement in Syria, Mr. Obama finally decided to order a military strike — only to put his order on a shelf while he seeks Congressional approval.
To a large degree, much of Mr. Obama’s quandary is that he boxed himself in by setting a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons by Syria, a line he now feels obliged to enforce to preserve his credibility. But the path to this messy moment has been complicated by more than an ill-advised utterance on Syria.
Throughout his presidency, whether the goal was closing the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or backing the NATO air campaign in Libya, Mr. Obama has proved better at articulating legal principles than at managing the politics that could help him defend those principles.
Some analysts say that Mr. Obama’s determination even now to divorce military action from broader engagement in Syria may have complicated his effort to rally international support.
“We’re telling people, we still don’t want to get involved, we just want to punish this guy,” said Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “The reason people aren’t lining up with us is that they don’t have trust in our policy.”
Ouch again. The article closes with thoughts from some former members of Team Obama:
Given the intractable nature of the Syrian conflict and the deep-rooted suspicions in the Arab world about American motives, some former administration officials said that Mr. Obama’s limited intervention would inevitably create a new set of problems.
“If the scope of the attacks is too narrow,” said Steven Simon, who until this year was the senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council, “Obama is going to end up with a gloating Assad. If it’s too sweeping, it’s going to raise questions about regime change and American ownership. How do you find the sweet spot?”
For that reason, officials expect Mr. Obama to follow his military action with a renewed diplomatic effort. The trouble is, the fracturing of Syria into warring, increasingly radical factions makes diplomacy even harder.
For those who argued that Mr. Obama should have done more to support the rebels a year ago, his quandary seems sadly inevitable.
“What was eminently predictable has come to pass,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at the State Department and the incoming president of the New America Foundation. “Because of the way it’s evolved, it is an incredibly complicated problem.”
It's Complicated. Maybe that can be Hillarity's bumper sticker for 2016.
And do let me add - anyone who declared Wednesday, August 28 to be the worst day of the Obama Administration needs to recalibrate:
Obama no longer commands respect
By Jennifer Rubin
Mark your calendar: Aug. 28, 2013. That was the day the roof fell in on President Obama. Our closest ally, Congress, the media and our military demonstrated their utter contempt for him. He has tried to avoid the world and U.S. involvement in it, so, naturally, his sudden call to arms (however weak and unsatisfactory) has provoked waves of skepticism.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron was “deserted by rebels in his own Conservative Party [and] lost a parliamentary vote for provisional authorization for military action in Syria.” The White House vowed to go it alone, an ironic outcome for Obama, who berated his predecessor for failing to work with multi-lateral bodies.
If Wednesday was the day the roof fell in, Saturday was the day the rubble burst into flames. Geez, I can't wait for Tuesday...