What caused that “incapacity”? Russia’s willingness to veto any resolution that would impose costs on Syria. Thus does the law professor encounter the real world, in which promising “resets” and “flexibility” to “Vladimir” leads not to international cooperation against evil but to the opposite.
If the president were thinking strategically, and not just about avoiding personal humiliation because he improvidently painted himself into a corner with warnings about “red lines,” he wouldn’t be wasting energy on Syria, which is the client of another power. As Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has tirelessly pointed out, Iran is the chief fount of terror in the world. Ledeen is feeling deja vu, watching another president focus on the wrong country regarding WMDs.
The president’s claim that Syria’s use of chemical weapons “threatens our national security interests” is clearly absurd. The danger Syria poses is simply to Obama’s diminishing credibility. Chemical weapons are ghastly, but our revulsion at their use doesn’t amount to facing a threat. Besides, the president’s proposed military wrist-slap will probably have no effect — except to further erode the world’s respect for American power.
Iran, by contrast, is a menace. Iran hasn’t used chemical weapons on its own people (it tortures and kills in other ways), yet as the chief supporter and weapons supplier to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groups, and as a sometime partner to al-Qaida, it does threaten us. Since taking our diplomats hostage in 1979, the Islamic Republic has kept up attacks on the U.S. directly (in Iraq), expanded Hezbollah into South America, allied with American foes like Venezuela and attacked us through terror proxies (as in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon).
Obama is relying on the same “international community” that has proved so useless on Syria to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Yet he doesn’t seem worried, which is worrying.
If Bashar Assad gases the Syrian people with Sarin, it offends our sensibilities. But if the mullahs of Iran achieve their goal of getting nuclear weapons, it is conceivable that nuclear terror could threaten the American people.
Would Iran be deterred as the Soviets and Chinese were by the threat of retaliation? Maybe, but would you trust the lives of your children to that guess? The point about arming terrorists — as the Iranians have been doing for 35 years — is that it provides deniability. If a dirty bomb were detonated in Chicago, would we retaliate against Tehran on the suspicion that the mullahs provided the uranium? We cannot even agree that our intelligence proves Assad used poison gas.
Every foreign policy action should be judged, not by whether it advances a naive fantasy of a world community punishing a miscreant, but by whether it advances American security. That means thwarting Iran by all means necessary.