Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Obama Administration - An Opportunity Squandered

Recent events surrounding the civil war in Syria have followed a strange path, but one that was readily predictable from President Obama's disappointing tenure in office.

Since taking office, President Obama has consistently picked big fights only to back down at the last moment and avoid confrontation through compromise cast as significant victory. He pushed hard for healthcare reform, then caved to the demands of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. He took hardline stances on budget and debt issues, then compromised at the last minute surrendering large budget cuts to important programs. The most recent of those compromises gave us the so-called budget sequester.

In typical fashion, this latest trouble with Syria was occasioned by his "red line" stance on chemical weapons. He announced that any use of those weapons by the Syrian government would be a game changer, then for three days he watched as the Syrian army prepared to gas it's fellow countrymen a second time. When he finally did respond - ten days after the latest incident - he announced military action, then sought an international coalition, then Congressional approval, meeting with defeat on all fronts. Every other president since World War II would have acted first, then commented later. We should have known when he started talking about a military response that none would be forthcoming.

President Obama loves debate. He relishes the exchange of ideas and he likes to talk. But while he was talking and posturing, the moment for action evaporated and any tactical advantage that could have been gained by a military strike slipped through his fingers. Perhaps that's what he wanted - to talk, to posture, to pontificate but take no real action. After all, talking but doing nothing of substance has been the hallmark of his administration. This time, however, he talked himself into a corner.

That the Russians and Syrians had to come to his rescue with a compromise is telling of how poorly the current situation was handled and yet one more indication of how much he has squandered the opportunity of his two-term presidency.