President Obama's prime time address on Syria last night raised more questions than it answered regarding this administration's foreign policy.
What scares Americans about a "limited" strike against Syria is the possibility of it spreading into a wider Middle East conflict. Does the president have a Plan B should his quick, small ball strategy escalate in that volatile region?
According to a CNN/ORC International survey, only four in 10 approve of Obama's job performance on foreign policy, while 57 percent disapprove. Those numbers have been in a steady free fall, from 54 percent in January to 49 percent in April, 44 percent in June, and the all-time low of 40 percent now
In order shore up public opinion on Syria, Obama had to walk back a number of his past statements, leading many to believe he has a muddled understanding of the Middle East. In a 2002 speech, then-Senator Obama had this to say in his opposition to the Iraq war: "I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."
Now, 11 years later, a majority of people and congressional leaders, apparently feel that attacking Syria would be a "dumb war." The 2002 action against Iraq by President George Bush raises some interesting comparisons with Obama's handling of Syria.
First, regarding the U.S. strike in Iraq, Bush was able to build a multinational "coalition of the willing" which included Great Britain. The U.S. attacked Iraq after United Nations inspectors were turned away, in violation of Security Council resolutions, in their search for weapons of mass destruction under Saddam Hussein. Obama has not been able to build a coalition or convince allies to back a U.S. attack against Syria.
The decision to go after Saddam Hussein in 2002 had clear objectives, first and foremost being to rid him of weapons of mass destruction. Although the stockpiles of WMDs were not found, it was part of an overall strategy to dismantle Al Quaida in the War on Terror.
Remember, Obama has made the claim that the War on Terror is over. Even more amazing is that this administration has been apparently arming Islamist groups that are allied with Al Quaida during the current civil war in Syria. You can't fault the American people for being confused when both sides in the Syrian civil war are considered our enemy.
Adding to the confusion is that this administration maintains it is not seeking a regime change in Syria. The clear objective of the U.S. going into Iraq in 2002 was to bring down Saddam Hussein.
In 2002, the Bush administration spelled in detail how Saddam Hussein's evil regime had been isolated for over a decade. Defense Secretary John Kerry, who has been the administration's front man in calling for an attack on Syria, recently compared Assad to Adolph Hitler. He wasn't always so hostile to the Syrian leader. Just two years ago, he complimented Assad as being a "very generous man."
Also in 2011, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "There's a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months, have said they believe he's a reformer."
Obama's strategy for Syria appears confusing and is all over the map, and he's consistently being upstaged and out maneuvered by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Syrian crisis has magnified this administration's ineptness in foreign policy for all to see.
By Jim Zbick