It’s too early to assess all the repercussions of the Syrian debacle. But some conclusions come immediately to mind:
- The Russians are better diplomats than the Americans.
- Syria’s President Assad is likely to stay in power indefinitely.
- Dictators around the world can use chemical weapons without fear of US reprisal.
- The current US Administration has lost all support in Syria, having succeeded in alienating the rebels as well as Assad. Earlier this summer, the US lost all support in Egypt. Washington isn’t doing very well in this part of the world.
- The European allies had better learn to take care of themselves.
- Americans do not want another war, especially in the Middle East.
- America’s seven decades of pre-eminence are rapidly coming to an end.
Apart from the above, nothing has changed!
In one poll, only 29% of Americans supported President Obama’s request for Congressional approval to attack Syria. One late night comedian found something positive in the poll – “this means that 29% of Americans know there is a country called Syria.” Of course, that doesn’t mean they know where it’s located!
President Obama himself said the US cannot be the world’s policeman, yet that is exactly what the US has been since President Truman. What he is signaling now is that it’s over – leadership of the western world is up for grabs. Understandably, there is reluctance on the part of the second and third richest US allies to pick up the reins – Japan and Germany. We could be in for a rough ride until somebody somewhere is ready to take over! History shows the worst times are the periods when no country is leading.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz quoted Conrad Black:
Summing up the net effect of all this, as astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”
Podhoretz showed in his article “Obama’s successful foreign failure” (September 8th) that it has always been the goal of this Administration to reduce the US down to the same level as other countries, that the world should no longer look to the President of the United States as the leader of the free world.
“For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days – and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.” (This was written before the Russian proposal, which changed everything – maybe!)
One day later, in the same paper, Middle East expert and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, Bret Stephens, noted the significant change in US policy over a single decade. “America’s way of war” has gone “from shock-and-awe to forewarn-and–irritate.” (“The Bed Obama and Kerry made,” WSJ, September 9th).
Assuming the Russian plan goes ahead, the US and its western allies are going to be in the unbelievable position of relying on the Russians to enforce the ban on chemical weapons, at least where Syria is concerned.
Never mind, we can’t afford another conflict anyway.
An article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, quoting from the Bipartisan Policy Center, points out that the US has never before defaulted on loan obligations, but may have to sometime between mid-October and early November, when the money runs out and the debt ceiling needs to be raised again. President Obama is likely going to find it harder to get the debt ceiling raised than it was to get approval for an attack on Syria.
“The thinktank’s estimate is in line with a warning last month by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that the government would exhaust its borrowing authority by mid-October and be left with just $50bn cash on hand.
“The government has never defaulted on its obligations. Raising the $16.7tn borrowing cap promises to be a major struggle for House Republicans and President Obama.” (US could default on its debt obligations by mid-October, thinktank warns,” The Guardian, September 10th).
Failure to get approval will affect all US government spending, from social security benefits to military pensions, welfare, and the military.
This is always an interesting time of the year. This year is proving to be no exception. Significant changes are taking place in the US and in the country’s relations with the rest of the world.