The Right Opinion

The Man Who Wasn't There

Arnold Ahlert · Oct. 13, 2015

For the briefest of moments on Sunday night, “60 Minutes” veteran Steve Kroft decided to impersonate a newsman during his interview with Barack Obama. “He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership,” Kroft insisted, in reference to Vladimir Putin’s Syrian excursion. 

Obama responded as one would expect. “Well — Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership,” he stated.

Only ally? “For much of the past 15 months, there have been repeated sightings of the powerful Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani apparently shuttling between Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran,” the BBC reluctantly reports. That would be Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, a U.S.-designated terrorist who has made a complete mockery of a UN-imposed travel ban, as well as our eternally clueless Secretary of State John Kerry, who assured Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) on July 29 that U.S. sanctions against the general would never be lifted.

That makes two allies, Mr. Obama. 

Or is it three? “Chinese forces head to Syria to join with Russia in filling Obama’s power vacuum and purportedly fight the Islamic State," reports Investor’s Business Daily. IBD illuminates the implications. "What is apparently happening now was inconceivable before Obama sent America spiraling into decline: our two Cold War adversaries uniting militarily in an effort that will ultimately give them dominance, at our expense, in the most strategically important part of the world, the oil-rich and politically fragile Middle East.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates took on Obama’s definition of leadership in a blistering Washington Post column. “Putin’s move into Syria is old-fashioned great-power politics. (Yes, people do that in the 21st century.)” they state, mocking Kerry's assertion that "(Y)ou just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.“ Kerry made that statement in August of 2014 — when Putin helped himself to a chunk of Ukraine.

Putin took his second measure of the Obama administration’s feckless posturing then. The first measure occurred when Obama punted on his Syrian "red line” in 2013, a move still defended with weasel words by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “Because we worked effectively with the Russians, we were able to get [Bashar al-Assad] to acknowledge that he had a declared chemical weapons stockpile,” Earnest stated on Sept. 28. “We removed that declared chemical weapons stockpile. And we destroyed that declared chemical weapons stockpile. Which means that Bashar al-Assad can’t use those chemical weapons against his own people.”

Note the word “declared.” Note further a report from the New York Times published four months before Earnest made that assertion. “Two years after President Bashar al-Assad agreed to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, there is mounting evidence that his government is flouting international law to drop jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas,” the paper reported. “Lately, the pace of the bombardments in contested areas like Idlib Province has picked up, rescue workers say, as government forces have faced new threats from insurgents. The Assad government has so far evaded more formal scrutiny because of political, legal and technical obstacles to assigning blame for the attacks — a situation that feels surreal to many Syrians under the bombs, who say it is patently clear the government drops them.”

It is clarity that utterly eludes the Obama administration. 

But give the administration credit — for a consistency of cluelessness that has far more ominous implications. Try these developments on for size:

— “Iran has successfully test-fired a new precision-guided, long-range missile, state-run media reported on Sunday,” CNN reports. “The Emad (Pillar) surface-to-surface missile, designed and built by Iranian experts, is the country’s first long-range missile that can be precision-guided until it reaches its target, said Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, Iran’s defense minister. ‘To follow our defense programs, we don’t ask permission from anyone,’” he added, according to Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA.

— “China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea,” Reuters reports, further noting that China is claiming territorial rights where “The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.”

— “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed Saturday that he is prepared to wage war against the United States if necessary, using as a backdrop a massive display of firepower in the form of troop columns, missile launchers, tanks and other military hardware during a choreographed parade in the capital of Pyongyang," reports USA Today.

— "As Russian warships rain down cruise missiles as part of its military strike in Syria, there’s now a glaring absence in the region: For the first time since 2007, the U.S. Navy has no aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf,” NBC News reported. “Military officials said Thursday that they’ve pulled the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is home to about 5,000 service members and 65 combat planes, so that it can undergo maintenance. The ship officially exited the gulf around 11 p.m. ET. The temporary measure is also the result of mandatory budget cuts.”

Anyone else think “events on the ground” might trump maintenance and budget cuts, with the latter element added to the mix so Obama can blame Republicans for the 2013 sequestration deal if anything goes wrong? That would be the deal where the GOP accepted cuts in military spending, while Democrats managed to keep Social Security, Medicaid and most means-tested anti-poverty programs exempt. Medicare benefits were also left intact, but Medicare provider payments were reduced.    — “Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the Oct. 15 ‘adoption day’ he has set for the nuclear deal he says he has made with Iran,” the New York Post reports. “According to the president’s timetable the next step would be ‘the start day of implementation,’ fixed for Dec. 15. But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.”

That’s because Iranians “have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so,” and Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia “have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else.” Thus Britain has lifted the ban on 22 formerly blacklisted banks and companies, Germany’s trade with the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror has increased by 33 percent, China is helping them build additional nuclear reactors, Russia has started delivering S300 anti-aircraft missile systems and is in talks to provide them with fighter planes, while France has sent a 100-man delegation to Iran to negotiate business deals, some of which are aimed at doubling Iran’s crude exports.

All while Obama and company continue to insist sanctions can be “snapped back” at a moment’s notice.

— “Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians continued to escalate Friday following a series of stabbing attacks throughout Israel and the West Bank,” Haaretz reports. Ismail Haniyeh Hamas’s leader in Gaza "has declared the current unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank an intifada,“ adds the Guardian. "We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada,” the terror leader declared in a Friday sermon. “It is the only path that will lead to liberation. Gaza will fulfill its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation.” His sentiments were echoed by Iranian newspaper and Ayatollah Khamenei echo chamber Kayhan. “Palestine is thirsty for a third Intifada,” the paper stated in an editorial last Thursday. “It is the duty of every Muslim to help start it as soon as possible.”

After the exchange cited in the opening paragraph of this piece, Obama told Kroft what his definition of leadership is. “My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris,” he declared. “My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we’ve got a 60-country coalition that isn’t suddenly lining up around Russia’s strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.”

Leading on climate change? More like imposing additional economic misery on Americans — by executive fiat. “Obama is imposing a nationwide 32 percent carbon dioxide emission reduction from 2005 levels by the year 2030,” Zero Hedge’s Tyler Durden informed us in August. “When it was first proposed last year, Obama’s plan called for a 30 percent reduction, but the final version is even more dramatic. The Obama administration admits that this is going to cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year and that electricity rates for many Americans are going to rise substantially.”

Making sure Iran doesn’t get nukes? “President Obama admitted Tuesday in a broadcast interview that his nuclear agreement with Iran only delays Tehran from eventually acquiring a weapon, which could come immediately after Year 13 of the agreement — leaving the problem for future presidents,” Fox News reported last April. “What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times (for nuclear weapons) would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said. 

A 60-country coalition? “The State Department lists 62 countries as members of the ‘global coalition to degrade and defeat ISIL,’" reported Foreign Policy magazine in Nov. of 2014. "But the bar for inclusion is apparently fairly low. Although many countries have pledged military or humanitarian support, the State Department indicates that simply ‘exposing ISIL’s true nature’ can qualify a nation for the coalition." 

Not lining up behind Russia’s strategy? "Putin discussed his Syria campaign on Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Mohammed Bin Salman, who signaled a willingness to let al-Assad remain in power longer," reports Bloomberg News.

"Yesterday, upon the stair/I met a man who wasn’t there/He wasn’t there again today/I wish, I wish he’d go away…"—from "Antigonish,” an 1899 poem written by Hughes Mearns

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