According to the neocons’ playbook, when President Barack Obama failed to enforce the “Red Line” policy in Syria, he tainted U.S. credibility, enabling our enemies to no longer fear us as well as causing our allies to doubt the U.S. ability to follow through on our pledges; and as a result, the world is a much more dangerous place. This was a turning point with serious negative repercussions to where our leadership role in the world has been seriously diminished. (Don’t forget that it was the republican led congress which lacked the courage to give President Obama the authorization to act against Syria in 2013 when he asked for this support.)
The republicans claim that the U.S.-Iran Nuclear agreement is such a bad deal to where the U.S. should walk away from it, immediately.
The above talking points are what the far right keeps reiterating over and over again to where it is gaining traction. It needs to be challenged.
On 3/31/16 Foreign Policy News by Derek Johnson published a report debunking the neocons talking points about President Barack Obama’s “Red Line” threat against Syria, to be enacted if their leader, President Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons to prevail against the Syrian rebels who were fighting to end his regime.
“In the bubble regularly occupied by neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks, August 2013 was a seminal moment in American history. To hear them tell it, a hundred years from now as the world lies in smoking ruins, we will look back with horror and regret to that one time when the President of the United States decided that unilaterally bombing Syria was not in our national interest.”
“It was (apparently) a simpler time before Barack Obama’s reign: the United States was universally respected our allies knew they could count on us and the tyrannical regimes who threatened U.S. interests abroad were cowed into submission by the very strength of our collective resolve. Then, tragically, Obama failed to enforce “The Red Line” in Syria and the planet was plunged into chaos.”
“Like many neoconservative history lessons, this narrative is both self-serving and patently false. President Obama first planned to conduct airstrikes on Bashar Al-Assad’s government without congressional authorization, but quickly changed course when Congress, the American public and our closest European ally all balked at the prospect of becoming enmeshed in yet another Middle Eastern civil war. Later, Russia brokered a deal to remove Assad’s chemical weapons caches, and while independent reports have confirmed that these caches were removed, the Syrian government still utilizes chlorine gas bombs (Chlorine is not considered a chemical weapon but is still lethal and devastating) Since then, the rise of ISIS in both Syria and Iraq has made it clear that any attempt to weaken Assad’s regime would have only further empowered radical Islamic extremist groups in the region.”
“This series of events has been largely swept away by foreign policy hawks and neo-conservatives in favor of their preferred narrative that Obama “blinked” in a staring match with Assad and the world has suffered ever since. It is as close to an article of faith these days among hawks and neoconservatives as you will find. One of the leading Republican presidential contenders, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, regularly mocks Obama on the campaign trail for not enforcing the red line (while omitting the fact that Cruz himself led to the strikes in the Senate). Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, gave a typical, hyperbolic analysis last year of how hawks have interpreted the fallout:
“Probably the most consequential thing the president didn’t do in his presidency was follow up on his pledges in Syria to attack the regime after they used chemicals,” said Haas. “That had consequences not just in Syria, not just in the Middle East, but throughout the world.”
“Writer Daniel Larison of The American Conservative remains one of the most consistent voices on the right pushing back against the argument put forth by U.S. hardliners, and he (documents that), despite repeated cries that the decision harmed U.S. interests and emboldened bad actors like Russia and China, there isn’t any actual evidence, this is true.”
“It is simply taken for granted that U.S. ‘credibility’ has been lost [by not striking Syria] because that is what proponents of this view believe must have happened,” writes Larison, pointing out that claims the red line incident influenced Russia’s actions with respect to Ukraine or China’s behavior in the South China Sea “have been debunked again and again.”
“Larison’s argument is simple: failing to follow through on an ill-advised, off script remark threatening military action is not remotely the same as violating a formal treaty or abandoning an ally in need. Furthermore, our friends (and enemies) readily understand the difference, even if hawks do not. In any case Obama was able to accomplish his stated rationale for airstrikes (removing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles) through non-military means.”
“Many of the people who fret the most over our inability to follow through on a non-binding threat are the same ones strenuously arguing in favor of walking away from the nuclear deal with Iran, something that actually would dramatically harm U.S. credibility on the global stage.”
“Despite the fact that the U.S. and its allies have dedicated years of effort, sacrificed their own economic interests and expended substantial political capital to bring Iran to the negotiating table, “credibility” hawks seem to believe that sinking the nuclear deal will bring with it no meaningful consequences or repercussions. Some have suggested that after killing the deal, the U.S. could convince the international community to keep the sanctions regime in place by threatening to cut off trade with any nation who dares to do business with Iran.”
“For one, the other countries involved in negotiations have already warned Congress that they won’t support continued sanctions if the U.S. walks away from the agreement. As for restricting trade to countries that deal with Iran, The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation rightly pointed out that such economic warfare would likely harm U.S. economic interests as much or more than it did the countries we targeted.”
“Two of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are also the two strongest powers in the region. Much of that is due to generous subsidies from the United States. Neither has a sterling record of human rights and both pursue policies that deeply undercut long-term U.S. foreign policy objectives for the region, but both countries give America a footprint in a very hostile (and oil-rich) region of the world.”
“A similar reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, a normalizing of diplomatic relations, could threaten the balance of power on issues like radical Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. The emergence of Iran as a competing regional power with normal diplomatic relations would provide future U.S. presidents with more flexibility and greater leverage in coaxing painful concessions from other countries in the region. And so naturally, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the two most vocal opponents of any deal that might remove the specter of a nuclear Iran from the stage.”