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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sep 12, 2013 / 8 Tishrei, 5774

In full retreat on Syria

By Michael Gerson



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Sometimes a president does not have a communications problem. Sometimes a president has a reality problem.

President Obama's speech to the nation on Syria was premised on the denial of reality. He claimed that the Russian/Syrian initiative resulted from the "credible threat of U.S. military action." In fact, it filled a vacuum of presidential credibility. Obama had been isolated within the G-20 and abandoned by our closest ally, Britain. Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of a military strike for which the president clearly had no stomach. Obama was on the verge of the most devastating congressional foreign policy repudiation since the Senate voted 49-35 against entering the League of Nations in 1920.

Vladimir Putin offered Obama an escape, which he gratefully took. But there are implicit costs. An American military strike is off -- something Putin thought inevitable just a few weeks ago. Russia's Syrian client, Bashar al-Assad, stays in power. The Syrian opposition is effectively hung out to dry. Russia gains a position of influence in the Middle East it has not held since Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of Egypt, allowing Moscow to supply proxies such as Syria and Iran with weapons while positioning itself as the defender of international law and peace. Iran sees that America is a reluctant power, with a timid and polarized legislature, that can be easily deflected from action by transparent maneuvers.

Other than this, 'twas a famous victory.

The speech was left to encompass a contradiction. The president wished to reassert his credibility while engaging in a forced concession. So the beginning and end were an argument for limited military strikes based on an appeal to American exceptionalism. The rest was an explanation of why such action would not be forthcoming -- and is no longer likely. A strike Obama could not effectively justify even with videos of gassed children will not be justified by news of a stalled or inconclusive inspection process.

The resulting message was boldly mixed. Assad is a moral monster -- who is now our partner in negotiations. The consequences would be terrible "if we fail to act" -- which now seems the most likely course. America "doesn't do pinpricks" -- especially when it does not do anything. "The burdens of leadership are often heavy" -- unless they are not assumed.

Even the normal fig leaves used to cover retreat were not present. There was no deadline set for Syrian compliance, unlike in Secretary of State John Kerry's initial, unintended offer. There was no list of conditions for a meaningful diplomatic deal. There was only the promise of a process heavily dependent on the good will of Putin and Assad, leveraged by American military threats that have become increasingly hollow.


The administration's Syrian problem is not just poor implementation; it is poor theory. At least in public, Obama is almost exclusively focused on maintaining norms against chemical weapons because this seems a narrow, achievable and morally unambiguous mission. But its very narrowness raises moral and strategic hazards. Is it coherent to evoke moral outrage at the murder of a thousand civilians with nerve gas while ignoring the murder of tens of thousands of civilians with hit squads, artillery, helicopters, bombers and Scud missiles? The Assad regime has bombed school buildings during school hours. Would this matter more if a video were available?

An exclusive focus on chemical weapons also creates a strategic hazard by obscuring broader challenges. Iran, Syria and Hezbollah -- with Russian support -- are bidding for dominance in a region essential to American interests. Important allies are at risk of destabilization. America must find some way to counter the emergence of jihadist safe havens within Syria. Yet the president prefers to address a single problem he regards as solvable instead of presenting and defending a regional strategy. He wants to improve his prospects by narrowing his focus. Foreign policy challenges can't be chosen in this way.

I am relieved that President Obama was given a reprieve from a devastating rejection by Congress, which would have wounded the presidency itself. We should hope (against hope) that a negotiation with Putin, Assad and the United Nations Security Council to establish international control of the world's third-largest chemical weapons stockpile in the middle of a civil war is successful. And Congress should seek ways to strengthen Obama's hand in negotiations.

But this remains a sad moment for America. We have seen a Putin power play, based on a Kerry gaffe, leading to a face-saving presidential retreat -- and this was apparently the best of the available options.

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Previously:



09/10/13Obama misunderstands wartime leadership
09/09/13 Rallying around a gesture
08/30/13 The preacher and the politician
08/27/13 Is Obama's oft-cited best-case scenario in Syria still even possible?
08/23/13 Jordan's wary welcome
08/20/13 The hardest goodbye: A parent letting go
08/16/13 For GOP, opposition shouldn't only mean obstruction
08/13/13 Crazy, humane determination creates breakthrough for millions
08/09/13 America's bubble of complacency
07/01/11 The GOP's ideal America
03/04/11 The last doughboy and the emergence of a great nation
03/01/11 Conservatives shouldn't be so surprised by freedom
02/22/11 The progression of pain
02/18/11 The seriousness primary
02/11/11 Do Egypt's protests mean American decline?
01/27/11 No-bend Obama
01/21/11 Two good arguments for civility -- and passion -- in politics
01/11/11 Obama's staff changes give him a second chance
01/11/11 Is Arizona shooting an empty search for meaning?
01/07/11 WikiLeaks gives dangerous ammunition to a tyrant
01/04/11 Michael Vick: Symbol of the second chance
12/28/10 Social Security reform is the answer to Obama's problems --- and the nation's
12/21/10 When foreign policy realism isn't realistic
12/17/10 When it comes to politics, Obama's ego keeps getting in the way
11/26/10 Libs resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems
11/19/10 With Holder at the helm, detainee policy is a disaster
11/12/10 Blue-state budget crises spell even more trouble for Dems
10/19/10 Obama the snob
10/12/10 Seeds of victory in Afghanistan
10/05/10 Believers' remorse
10/04/10 Pound-foolish on national security
09/28/10 Babylon on the Potomac
09/27/10 Our reluctant commander in chief
09/21/10 Blue strongholds are becoming Democratic graveyards
09/17/10 For the GOP, a bittersweet brew from the Tea Party
09/15/10: Insanity's great enablers
09/13/10: The lost communicator
09/08/10: Will 2010 midterms be 1994 all over again?
09/01/10: Obama's economic wandering
08/27/10: Miracles from abroad
08/25/10: Address these issues in order to strengthen the Tea Party
08/20/10: The lost promise of Barack Obama
07/23/10: Obama's greatest nightmare
02/04/09: The Reality of Innocence
01/07/09: The Risks in Obama's Ambitions
12/31/08: Support Obama Will Need
06/13/08: Prince Charles, Organic Conservatism Icon
06/11/08: No longer a bankrupt political joke but still overshadowed
04/23/08: McCain's anger management
04/10/08: A Country for Old Men
03/06/08: Does the America Need a Hug?
03/06/08: Obama's First 100 Days
02/29/08: Words Aren't Cheap
02/22/08: He Said, They Said
02/20/08: Dying silently in Zimbabwe
02/15/08: Hillary's Unappealing Path
02/13/08: NATO's Afghan Stumbles
02/08/08: Why McCain Endures
02/06/08: One surge that led to another
02/01/08: In North Korea, Process Over Progress
01/30/08: Compassionate to the end


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