The fruits of epic incompetence

By  , Published: September 12

The president of the United States takes to the airwaves to urgently persuade the nation to pause before doing something it has no desire to do in the first place.

Strange. And it gets stranger still. That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.

Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?

Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.

He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.

Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the United States above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.

And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to the New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — a.k.a. “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.

24 thoughts on “The fruits of epic incompetence

  1. Both his supporters and opponents are confused. There is no clear message, passion or leadership. That is what you get when you have a president that is constantly the politician.

    If he really believed he would have taken action weeks ago.

  2. Good Morning, Villagers…lots of fog, there’s a nip in the air, clearing to mostly sunny, highs in the low 80’s!

    Taylor…thanks for the articles, this last one says it all…this Syrian fiasco is beyond belief and worries me no end. Obama has been outmanuevered and everyone, except maybe himself….knows that he’s not a Commander In Chief. As this whole thing has evolved, I keep thinking it couldn’t get any worse…then Putin turns up with an article in the New York Times….he basically is rubbing it in Obama’s face. Kerry seems befuddled and blustering about…I think he’ll settle for whatever he can get from the Russians…hoping the whole thing will go away…he’s not the man for that job either. As I look around the current administration I have very little confidence in most of these appointments…they all seem like short-timers who are in over their head too. With Iran and the possibility of nukes…heaven help us…I hope the Israelis are prepared to go it alone…I wouldn’t count on help from Obama if I were them…he’s diminished himself and this country.

    Mary….yes, I too hope you’re out of the floods in Colorado. I’ve been enjoying your travelogue too!

    I’m still keeping two households and it’s running me ragged. Our mountain, Mt. Diablo, was on fire this week….burned about 4,000 acres and it lit up the sky at night throughout the valley. Thankfully it’s mostly contained now and no houses were lost, just some picnic areas. It was such an eerie sight….funnels of clouds in purples, pinks and black….with flames rising to the sky….billowing smoke that mostly drifted southward and we had a heatwave that was stifling when it started. The weather turned cooler now though…that helped quite a bit. Mother Nature is a spectacle to behold and should never be underestimated!!

    Enjoy your day…

  3. The tragedy in DC today was horrible. Cathy Lanier, the head of the DC Police, has a good reputation–you may want to google to read more but here is an article from a few years ago. She spoke at most of the press briefings today. I almost posted an article about her on the blog a few years ago because she seemed like a woman who earned her way to the top through grit and determination.

    The conditions in Colorado are so hard to believe. Mary, I hope you are safe.

  4. Hey villagers. Yes, we are home. Safe. No worries. Got out a day before it got really bad. We were in some bad storms, but we quickly drove out of them. One day we decided to drive up to Independence Pass, really high, but beautiful views. We got halfway up, light, intermittent rain most of the way, but really a nice drive. Then we looked up, saw the storm clouds building quickly, in a matter of minutes. It looked ominous, and we looked at each other and said, no, we should turn around, and so we did.

    Most of the bad storms were east of the continental divide. It was weird, immediately as you crossed to the west of the continental divide, the storms subsided, with only gentle rain. But on the other side the rain was coming down in torrents.

    We boarded the train back in sunshiney, cool perfect weather. But we woke up to read that the train service had been discontinued the same evening we boarded. Had we chosen one day later, we would have been stuck driving rather that riding the train.

    Coming back you realize that the Sierras are beautiful, yes, but nothing beats the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

    We spent a lovely day in San Francisco before we came on home. Stopped at Ghiradelli Square to buy chocolates, and a great dinner in A nearby restaurant right on the bay.

  5. I have very little comments on this president these days. We turn off the TV whenever he comes on. There is nothing he has to say that interests me. Any little respect I might have had is totally gone. So I have nothing to add here. It has all been said.

    The shooting at the Navy yard could have been avoided. I have had the kind of acces he had, and where I worked everything was searched, going in and out. We took that stuff very seriously. But I believe that here too the attitude on this comes top down. This administration sets the example that all this security stuff is not necessary, that all of that is too much bother, silly, old school stuff, just old timers making you do all this stuff that now has become dated. Why bother? This is stupid, they say. Well, no not really. Now we see the consequences of a lazy, whatever , set of workers who have never felt the seriousness of war and real threats to their livelihood.

  6. So glad all went well and you left soon enough not to be stranded. It looks like folks near Longmont and Boulder will be on a tight deadline as they prepare for winter. What happened in Colorado reminds me of the1972 Black Hills flood that killed 238 people.

    Have you seen the Howard Kurtz program on Fox on Sunday mornings called Media Buzz? I’ve only seen two programs but I like the tone of the discussion.

    Hope all is well.

  7. One of my friends posted this:

    So, if the government shuts down, who is going to read my email or listen to my phone calls?

    Karel and Normita, my daughter and friends went to the Lagunitas Brewing Co. ih Petaluma CA yesterday. Have you ever been there?

  8. Oh My Lord i’ve missed my Village family soooo much!!
    We have had sooooo many things going on nobody would even believe it and its only the grace of God that i’m able to talk about it, i just got out of the hospital again AAARRRGG! But i’m thinking that i will try and send out a email to you all so you will understand whats going on, i think that would be better. But We love and miss all of you so much and we have been praying for each and everyone of you!

    Love Teri

  9. Good morning villagers. Have you seen Jon Stewarts spook on Obamacare. It is one of the best that he has done. Go to It is posted there. Just hilarious!

  10. Hi Mary i just saw it and it is funny lol.

    Hows your new grandbaby, just as cute as button i’m sure?
    Tatlor, hows your family and are you holding up ok? Still praying for you and your family
    I love you all and i will check back in tomorrow nite.


  11. Just got back from a trip to MN to celebrate milestone birthdays. It was good and Dad is doing well. He celebrated birthday #91 yesterday. My niece told him that he didn’t look a day over 30 to which he replied that he felt like 40.

    Teri, hope you are feeling better.

    Will look for the Jon Stewart video.

  12. Normita must be in the Philippines and enduring the typhoon. So is Maria. Normita posted this to Maria on Facebook::

    Normita Fenn I’m still here, so much to do. Sorry, didn’t much time for social, lots of family business to take care of. Rain and wind just landed here in eastern part of Rizal Province. Scary.

    Normita Fenn Power in and out, my flashlight is sitting beside me.

  13. Hello Taylor, Mary and Teri,
    I came on to see about Normita and any news about her family in the Phillipines. I am sorry to hear she is there..she is a strong one and very resourceful but with such strong natural forces I pray she is not in danger. My prayer are with her and all the residents.

  14. Normita is in her hometown Morong Rizal. She has not posted on Facebook since Nov 9th. I believe she was there for a family wedding. Not sure if Bob is with her.

    Based on Maria’s Facebook page, she moved back to the Philippines sometime earlier this year. She has been posting regularly so I am assuminng her area escaped heavy damage.

    Here are recommendations for donations. I also heard that Unicef is a reliable charity.

  15. Hello Village family,

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, i hope you have a great one with friends and family!
    We are going over to my mom’s house and eating and getting together.
    I hope everyone is doing well and all is ok.
    We had a wedding Sat. for Shandy the 19 year old got married, and it was beautiful, i just can’t believe shes married it seems like just yesterday she was trying out for her cheerleading team. wow how time flies bye.
    We have been so busy with this wedding and court and illness that i haven’t had a chance to look up. but all is going pretty good.

    I’m glad to see Tayna stopped by!

    Welll everyone enjoy your Thanksgiving tomorrow and i will talk to you all later.

    we love you all
    Teri and The Village Kids

  16. Hello All my Village Family,
    I hope everyone is doing good and getting ready for Christmas, i know in our house the little ones are so excited. Its gonna be fun to watch.

    But i know Taylor has a Birthday today, so i came to wish you a happy Birthday happy birthday to you happy birthday to you and many more! And i hope this year is alot better than you last year and you get everything you want my friend!

    Also i sending out Christmas gifts so im senting a email so that everyone i have on the list hopefully your addresses will be the same but if not can you please let me know right away dont want you gift gonig to the wrong house!

    Well i love you all Teri and The Village Kids

  17. Merry Christmas villagers…Thank you for the beautiful card, Karel…I moved in September but I left a forwarding address so I received your card a few days ago. I wish you all a wonderful new year filled with beauty, good health, happy days, and joy and peace in your hearts. I came on her to see the snowflakes falling so gently too 🙂 Thank you Normita for keeping the tradition at the village. Terri, congratulations on having a village kid be the first village wedding! Good to see you and the family are getting along each day no matter what challenges you are facing.

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