Obama: “I Didn’t Set A Red Line”
President Obama doesn’t seem to like his “red line” very much:
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the red line he spoke of last year regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons came from international treaties and past congressional action, and he challenged the international community to join him in enforcing bans on such armaments.
In direct and confrontational remarks to reporters in Sweden, Obama laid out his rationale for wanting to attack Syria on the same day a Senate committee in Washington will vote on a proposed resolution authorizing limited U.S. military strikes.
He also insisted he had the authority to order attacks on Syria — expected to be cruise missile strikes on Syrian military command targets — even if Congress rejects his request for authorization.
America “recognizes that if the international community fails to maintain certain norms, standards, laws, governing how countries interact and how people are treated, that over time this world becomes less safe,” Obama said. “It becomes more dangerous not only for those people who are subjected to these horrible crimes, but to all of humanity.”
The thing is, of course, that President Obama did set a red line just over one year ago:
I get what the President is trying to do here. He’s trying to make the debate in Congress less about him and more about the fact that the U.S. is just part of a larger world community that has condemned the use of chemical weapons going back to the decade after World War One. The problem with his argument, though, three-fold. First, putting this at the feet of the “international community” just raises the point that, except for France, the United States currently stands alone in support for a military response to the Assad regime’s apparent use of chemical weapons. If this is really about the international community, then where is that community right now, and shouldn’t the fact that most of the world, and most of the American people, don’t want to get involved in Syria at this point be a factor in determining how the U.S. should act? Second, the international chemical weapons conventions that the President speaks of give authority to enforce these international norms to the United Nations, not the United States. Finally, the way the President phrased this, given all of his statements in the past just makes him look silly.
I’m nowhere near having an opinion about how this is likely to fare in the House and Senate, but it doesn’t seem like the President is doing himself any favors.