Editor’s Note: Clark S. Judge, a former Reagan advisor, doesn’t hold back on Obama in his op-ed for the DailyMail. Judge places into perspective how Obama’s emotional disconnect, to this tragedy, reflects and confirms the chaos in POTUS’s foreign policy.
At a political event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, President Obama devoted only 40 seconds to the shooting down of the Malaysian airline, his first statement to the world following the news.
His emotionless reference to the attack as ‘a terrible tragedy’ seemed disconnected from the horrific moment, particularly as he immediately reverted to script to praise his administration and criticise Republicans.
It was a far cry from President Reagan’s 1983 fierce denunciation of the Soviet shooting down of a Korean airliner as a ‘crime against humanity’.
But it only confirmed the chaos into which US foreign policy has descended since the summer of 2012 when reporters at a White House briefing asked Mr Obama about the security of chemical weapons in the Syrian stockpile.
The commander in chief went beyond safety and said: ‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is [when] we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.’
The term ‘red line’ is the kind of clear, emphatic language major powers use only when they are prepared to back words with action.
A little over a year later, the Assad regime utilised chemical weapons against its own people.
The number of blunders that the President and his administration committed in the ‘red line’ affair is hard to fathom.
Before the President spoke, no one vetted the term and its consequences in the White House policy process and, once the words came out, no one undertook preparations in case Syrian president Bashar al-Assad called Mr Obama’s bluff.
According to reports, no one made the diplomatic rounds to line up the support of allies just in case, or the congressional rounds to line up the support of Congress. No one developed military plans or sent quiet signals to Assad that the US was not to be trifled with on this matter.
These actions are routine when any White House makes as definitive a commitment as the President made, except, apparently, this White House.
Even bigger blunders came after the Syrian chemical attack. Mr Obama began signalling that, despite his remark, he did not want a response, any response. First there was the verification charade. Multiple eyewitness accounts of rockets rising out of Syrian army installations and falling into the stricken zones at the time of the chemical attacks were not enough to warrant quick action.
Then there was his call for a congressional vote, delivered just when the need to respond was most urgent if air strikes were to deliver an effective message.
Finally, there was the utter failure to attract congressional support, assuming Mr Obama really wanted Congress to endorse the proposed attacks.
That the Parliament of our closest ally, Great Britain, rejected an air campaign first gave Mr Obama an additional reason for inactivity. The flailing seemed to end when Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the door to a negotiated deal with Syria. But it was not the end; it was the beginning.