by Paul Goldman
Yesterday, I was all alone out on the limb, my email and text messages filled up with criticisms of my prediction that Obama would not be slam dunked by the Congress on Syria. Folks laughed, said Larry Sabato was the guru with the Crystal Ball, and it was time for me to admit that Mark Warner had really run the Wilder campaigns. All the “geniuses” were a work as usual.
But now: I can expect the usual, folks saying that I just lucky. I concede: it could be luck, maybe dumb luck. Whatever you call it: As predicted, there is now a “big upside for The Prez…”
“Don’t forget” I observed, that “Assad doesn’t want the U.S. to attack him. He will go to great lengths to avoid it.” “THE POINT BEING” I pointed out: “A credible threat of even a small U.S. strike against Assad’s government is big time scary to the Syrian regime. The same for Russia,” their key backer.
I wrote: “As I read the polls, Americans are not opposed to sending a forceful message discouraging the use of chemical weapons, or defending national security interests when threatened in Syria. Rather, they are skeptical of what we can do to benefit America in that war zone, fearful whatever we do will be a net-minus, indeed risk getting us bogged down in another senseless war effort where the promised gain will again morph into yet another loss of life, treasurer and trust in our political system.”
Yes, Sabato is right, as were others, that it’s always safer to go with the conventional wisdom, to NEVER go out on the limb, to always go with the crowd. That way you never get criticized, because everyone has to protect themselves. It’s a life on your knees, but you think otherwise.
Remember months ago when I was predicting a Democratic sweep on November 5? Sabato and others were being quoted as saying Cuccinelli was a “sure winner” based on how the campaign was going down. I wrote an article right here on Blue Virginia to refute it. As they say, you can look it up, back in May I believe. No one joined me on the limb then, either.
But back to Syria right now.
“It is difficult to see the political math adding up to an authorization for something other than…aimed [at punishing] Assad for the use of chemical weapons. The Russian proposal – and let’s not kid ourselves, it is pure 200-proof politics by the Russians, a chess play to save a client – is merely that opening where you purposely sacrifice a pawn, it puts your opponent off guard. Or what they call a “loss leader” in business. Putin is giving away – the Syrians have to go along with his play – chemical weapons no longer of any value, in order to set in motion a clever process which he hopes will make a military attack by the U.S. impossible in the foreseeable future. Moreover, by getting U.N. inspectors and others on the ground, it will make the whole fighting of the civil war more complicated.
The risk is this. Putin next week says: Okay, Assad is giving up his chemical weapons, why aren’t we demanding that the rebels give up theirs? Remember, he and Assad are saying the August 21st attack wasn’t by their side, but it happened so someone had to do it by their analysis? Thus, are they not saying or implying that the rebels have chemical weapons or something similar? Logically then, would not the UN resolution have to be “even handed,” asking all sides to give you their chemical weapons? But the rebels say they don’t have any, that Putin and Assad are lying.
Meaning: if you believe Putin, then the rebels are refusing to abide by international law and Assad, the murderer, is abiding by giving up the chemical weapons at the demand on the UN. My point being: surely we need to expect Putin to add such an “even-handed” addition to any UN resolution. How can the US and others refuse without saying the rebels don’t have any such weapons. Which of course risks having the Russians/Syrians plant them on the rebel forces. Remember the chemical weapons are no of no use to Assad. If he were to use them again, it would back stab the Russians, and force American public opinion to reassess.
Since we are now in 200-proof political mode on the world stage, I am just suggesting that all plot lines must be explored. Thus, Assad, the good tyrant, willing to give up his WMD’s for the good of the world community. Nobel Peace Prize awaits!
The 200-proof, “out on the limb” analysis: Yeah, the limb was creakin’ something awful yesterday — Sabato and the Sabato wannabees doing their “high fives” and selling them crystal balls. Like I say: they coulda been right. I was out there without a net, but thinking the President ain’t “chopped liver” as they say the Big Apple, that he had moves he could make. Besides: I never figured Democrats would abandon their own guy on the battlefield. That never made sense. You give him some cover at least.
Moreover, Ronald Reagan had a point, when it comes to dealing with the Ruskies and their posse, you got to “trust but verify.” I see where Bombs Away McCain and his Sgt. Schultz (aka, Senator Lindsay Graham), are already stealing Ronnie’s line. But it is good advice.
So yes: It is just another lonely day at the OK Corral: you don’t want to shoot no one, but you don’t control who rides into town. In theory, the Russian, now French, soon-to-be-UN-Security-Council resolution can work, and give all the big players cover. Meaning: I believe the Obama Administration can rightly, but in a “limited, proportional” way, take credit for calling the Russian bluff, the Assad bluff, and making them go to Plan B.
But I would be leery of taking too much credit. It might work but it is not the smart play here. A little goes a long way sometimes, and this is one of those times in my book. I would not be trying to spike the ball here, just take the points on the board and be humble. Moreover, the Russian proposal is a political compromise, nothing more at this stage. It is really the “No More Chemical Weapons” equivalent of the “No Car Tax” slogan that won the 1997 GUV race.
Let’s be honest: The devil ain’t giving no details because the devil is in the details. But you got to love the “spin” if you love the game, so it is fun now out on the limb, got a lot of company, all proving that defeat is an orphan and victory has a thousand fathers, as the old adage goes. This thing is a long way from being over, so get set for a wild ride. But the politics is a lot better for the President today than yesterday. That’s a big plus for America, and in the end, that’s what counts.