Friday, September 23, 2016

Obama lectures on Syria, a crisis he exacerbated

When future historians debate why the U.S. did so little to stop the tragedy in Syria, they should dig up the speech President Barack Obama just gave at a U.N. summit on refugees.

While Democrats signaled their collective virtue by denouncing a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. that compared Syrian refugees to Skittles, Obama lectured foreign ministers and heads of state this week on the same topic. "And just as failure to act in the past, for example, by turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, is a stain on our collective conscience," Obama said, "I believe history will judge us harshly if we do not rise to this moment."

Obama went on to state something obvious: "We must recognize that refugees are a symptom of larger failures -- be it war, ethnic tensions, or persecution." But then he said something bizarre: "If we truly want to address the crisis, wars like the savagery in Syria must be brought to an end, and it will be brought to an end through political settlement and diplomacy, and not simply by bombing."

This of course is a straw man. No one who has argued for more U.S. involvement in Syria has said more bombing alone will solve these problems. What's more, the U.S. is doing a lot of bombing in Syria today against the Islamic State.

But there is also something sinister about Obama's formulation. The U.S. is not just another country when it comes to the collective security of the Middle East. Through its alliances and interventions, it has been the region's reluctant sheriff since the end of World War II. In this sense, it's rich of Obama to pose as a Jeremiah when he has acted more like a Nero....