Daily Meme: Falling Down the Foreign-Policy Rabbit Hole

  • In the immortal words of Shep Smith, "politics is weird. And creepy." And the past two weeks in American foreign policy have been especially bonkers for the way our plan forward in Syria has taken a chutes and ladders path to where it is now.
  • Last night, Obama gave a speech answering many of the critics of his airstrike plan: "Many of you have asked: Won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are still recovering from our involvement in Iraq. A veteran put it more bluntly: This nation is sick and tired of war. My answer is simple. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities."
  • Unsurprisingly, his words didn't lead to a ceasefire with said critics, although Andrew Sullivan very much enjoyed it.
  • Senator John McCain said today, "I devoutly wished last night that the president had said what he told [Senator] Lindsey Graham and me in the Oval Office, and that was that he supported efforts...to bring about negotiations which would lead to the departure of Bashar Assad."
  • Rob Dreher at The American Conservative writes, "Was anybody’s mind changed by that speech? I can’t imagine it. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t convincing either. It’s about the best attempt one could imagine to sell an incoherent, bad policy."
  • Jennifer Rubin is, unsurprisingly, skeptical of this whole thing. "There are many downsides to a 24/7 news environment, but one upside is that it makes it very difficult to pull off a ruse, Russian or otherwise. The only question for Obama is what excuse he’ll come up with next."
  • National Review was also not impressed, calling the speech a "crescendo to a nothing-burger."
  • Julia Ioffe at The New Republic thinks the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry's poor choice of words lead to Vladmir Putin's insertion of a new rock between American foreign policy on Syria and a hard place in just a sad example of the White House getting played. "This, to borrow a phrase from a Congressional staffer at his wits' end, 'is an unmitigated clusterfuck.'"
  • Or, as the Brits put it, Obama got "snookered."
  • Even worse, "Did the World Just Legitimize the Assad Regime It Spent Years Discrediting?"
  • While Fred Kaplan wonders whether this unexpected path will lead to a win-win for the White House.
  • Meanwhile at Politico, they're trying to make "zig-zag foreign policy" a thing. Yeah, no. 
  • And, as Jeffrey Goldberg asks, what happens if diplomacy fails? "we'll be back, soon enough, to a congressional vote on an attack very few people seem to want, and even fewer seem to understand."


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