It’s a Wrap: Obama is No Bush Warmonger

Though not for lack of trying, in his solo flight Obama dramatically flubbed War-making 101. This washout is all the more astonishing, considering how far he’s gone, and high political costs paid, duplicating woefully entrenched policies. Yet this president fails to appreciate the brilliant Bush-Cheney machination on Iraq: instigating a war of choice with zero direct or national security threat.

That con, mastered by that pious posse of Dubya, Cheney and Rumsfeld, not only brought us a “dumb” war but installed pre-emptive unilateralism as default foreign policy (burying negotiation). Team Bush understood Washington, Pentagon brass, the State Dept., and national media spin, thanks to Karl Rove. A one-strike pinprick against a brash violator of international legal norms like Syria would have been child’s play — done and over in a weekend, then festooned with triumphant bragging before the smoke cleared. How did Obama miss this ruse when starting his own, manifestly “dumb war”?

For residual fans, Obama’s failure may prompt them to crow, “See, he went to Congress, not as bad as Dubya.” But most others are aghast not only at the cumulative, self-induced White House incompetence but the improbable, Hail Mary catch by Russia. What rationalist entrusts “peacemaking” to caprice by a mouthy Sec’y of State picked up by an autocratic power broker with his own fish to fry? Sounds to me like Russian roulette, with about the same odds. Does John Kerry’s rash of inane hyperbole not make the ever-traveling, low-achieving Hillary look the polished tactician?

Apparently, short of invasion, no president named Obama will combine the audacity of war with the urgency of now. What klutz orchestrates a remote, one-shot war without rounding up home troops, political and otherwise, in advance? As with failed domestic generalship on immigration, budget balancing or gun control weren’t enough, Obama sought, cultivated, then fell in his own Syrian quicksand of bad choices. Second term fiascoes are getting as tiresome as they are predictable.

So, Obama can’t match the deceptive Iraq war brigade, not even when boosted by bellicose McCain war crazies. Obama went from drawing wobbly “red lines” on poison gas to red-faced embarrassment when his war production flopped. That half the rightwing cheered his war cries, and more than a few Democratic worthies, speaks to current absurdity. Obama and Pelosi in bed with McCain and Graham, plus Boehner and Cantor — and not one political winner across this wayward, bipartisan militarism.

Death to Surgical Strikes

What heroic warrior survives postponing the first assault, as if waiting a month makes no difference? Delay is death to belligerence, worsened by punting anything to this Congress. Compare Bush-Cheney, who kept every preposterous propaganda duck in a row, as calculated deceptions fed on newly-minted subterfuges. Lean on Saddam as terrorist when impugning this despicable tyrant (so he’s a former ally), publicize massacres of his own people and growing threats to neighbors. Then invent weapons of mass destruction with graphs and data, swearing up and down mushroom clouds menace democracy everywhere.

That’s how you start a dastardly war of choice. Compare Obama’s legal, moralistic formulas, as if death from gas is drastically worse than from fire-bombing or drones bringing terror from the sky. Or Kerry’s claims that if Syrian gets away with poison, our troops are next in line. Right, across outposts armed to the teeth, itching to retaliate with ten times the retribution?

Could the Syrian stalemate signal the neo-con legacy of endless war is showing its age? Or just getting too pricey for the fattest cat? Yet imperial, unilateral militarism is an insatiable growth industry. Could we really have a paradigm shift, as more empires die from bankruptcy than defeat in battle? Honestly, per national security, Syria is like Iraq, near the bottom of the barrel. Talk about a logical slippery slope: now one limited gas attack presages a swath of global terrorism?

We are only months since re-election and the Obama administration continues to implode. When dumping Larry Summers as Fed chair BEFORE he’s actually nominated gets bold headlines, the White House crew wins booby prices for negligence. On exerting war powers historically an automatic reflex, President Lame Duck gets stuffed by his own party. Before Obama, no president in a century screaming war “infamy” didn’t get to rush arms into the breach.

Doomed by Self-made Gaffes

In any case, Syria puts the lie to Democratic loyalist claims this president can’t get anything done because hateful Washington meanies want to show him up. And put him down. Can Obombardier blame anyone else for his predicament, likely to have lost the House battle before firing a shot? Only a nod to providence explains Obama’s lucky, blundering escape, seconded by the Putin seizing a match to light his dubious “peace parade.”

Perhaps the world tilts when this ex-KGB thug, a late-convert from atheism to Christianity, anoints himself the latest prince of peace. Whatever, I say: hip, hip, hurray that unilateral, cowboy belligerence at last failed. Hurray for trumping White House fantasies on easily halting gas attacks! Hurray for gridlock that won’t agree on anything! Hurray for a rightwing anti-war gang ready to assault its favorite enemies: illegitimate Obama and the illegitimate federal government wasting (Tea Party) taxes it doesn’t have. Hurray for what NY Times columnist, Timothy Egan, called “a staggering display of mush, muddle, and miscues” that might reign in a rogue nation without firing a shot. Imagine, after countless jet bombers and drones that strike at will, history was made when violence was rebuffed.

High Price for Re-election

Noteworthy in passing: here’s another post-re-election reprimand that bleeds the victor’s presidential capital. Don’t the last six decades reinforce that winning a second term precedes humiliation, so much so the efficacy of a single, six-year term looks better and better? Since Eisenhower, four-year reruns have produced results ranging between chaotic and cataclysmic. Plagued with mounting financial and war blunders, Bush’s bizarre notion of governance was gored by Katrina, and now Obama fails with Congress, public opinion, financial powers, or diplomatic and military dilemmas.

American politics lurches when any commander-in-chief, despite backing from the gung-ho gang, is blackballed from war president status. There’s a memorable lesson here: clearly, war-making on a grand scale isn’t for amateurs but hardened hustlers like Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney. Who knew? It’s one thing for Obama to okay the Afghan surge, but declaring your own new, unjustified war of choice– that honor demands skills and propaganda beyond Team Obama.

Who also knew America could make headlines by drawing a (red?) line NOT to attack a fabricated enemy, especially one with geo-political value and sizable oil reserves? Maybe ultimately Obama provided the curious “exceptionalism” that proves the rule, the commander-in-chief who learns too late that what most counts, as in comedy, is perfect timing?

Robert S. Becker was educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English). He left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. "Writing for the public taught me how to communicate." From '92-02 he did marketing consulting, grant, and business writing. Since '02, he scribbles on politics, science and culture, looking for the wit in the shadows. Read other articles by Robert.