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We Have Assad Right Where He Wants Us

September 16, 2013

We have Assad right where he wants us

The plan was ingenious, and flawlessly executed. It was launched last August, when our intrepid President laid down that red line, defying President Assad to unleash his chemical weapons.  Considering the increasing violence in Syria, Obama no doubt calculated that it was only a matter of time before those weapons would be used and the line would be crossed.  The trap was set.

Then in March of this year came the first reports of chemical attacks.  But Obama knew the timing was not quite right.  He silently waited for Assad to become more deeply ensnared.  And in June, when France reported that sarin gas was used on multiple occasions in Syria, Obama continued the waiting game, methodically studying the situation, watching Assad dig himself in deeper and deeper, and waiting for the calls for action to grow louder.  Finally, after another massive chemical attack, and the slaughter of more than 100,000 civilians by conventional weapons, Obama was ready to strike.  Or so we all thought.  He directed his Secretary of State to passionately lay out the justification for a military response.  He sent warships to the region.  He successfully convinced the world that a punishing, yet unbelievably small blow to Syria was imminent. 

But it was all a ploy, for at the last possible moment, Obama ingeniously feinted to the left – or maybe it was the right.  At any rate, he announced that he was going to let Congress make the final decision on military action.  It was a brilliant maneuver.  It relieved him of an awesome responsibility, and at the same time, it provided the one element seemingly essential to all of Obama’s operations - a way to blame someone else when things go wrong.

By then, some naysayers were beginning to question Obama’s grand plan.  After all, turning the matter over to Congress provided no real solution.  It only shifted responsibility.  Nothing coming from Congress would eliminate the problem.  No action it took would eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons.  Ah, but the plan had not yet played out.  Obama left it to Secretary Kerry to spring the trap. 

Earlier this week, Kerry was asked by a reporter if there was anything Assad could do to prevent a military strike.  Deftly applying reverse psychology, he responded,   "Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay…but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done, obviously."  He said it so casually, we all thought it was a rhetorical, off-the-cuff remark.  The State Department and the White House assured us that was the case.  No one should have taken it seriously.  As it turns out, it was an absolutely cunning gambit, all part of the plan.

Assad and Russian President Putin fell for it hook, line, and sinker.  The subliminal suggestion planted by Kerry took root, and Putin, undoubtedly believing the idea was his own, offered a new plan.  Syria would simply relinquish all her chemical weapons, and there would be no more talk of military action.  Most of us were a little surprised to see Putin, a one-time KGB officer, taken in so easily by our one-time community organizer; maybe we just underestimated Obama’s leadership. 

So it looks like the whole situation has been resolved.  Assad, seemingly unimpressed by Obama’s saber-rattling, immediately and wholeheartedly embraced the plan offered by Putin.  Maybe you really can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, especially when the honey comes from your closest ally.  There are still a few kinks to work out.  Who will inventory the chemical weapons, how will their destruction be verified, and which other methods of wholesale slaughter might be acceptable to them?  Assad and Putin will probably work out all those   details between themselves, without having to disturb Mr. Obama.  He and the members of Congress can relax again.  There will now be no tough decisions to make, and no constituents to deal with.
Some have cynically suggested that Obama turn his Nobel Peace Prize over to President Putin.  But why should he?  White House spokesman Jay Carney finally revealed to us that that it was only Obama’s threat of our military intervention that brought about this dramatic outcome.  So it turns out that the operation many saw as weak, feckless and confused, was really the unfolding of Obama’s strategic plan.  Yes, it was ingenious. 

Inspector Clouseau could not have done a better job himself.

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Peter Lemiska has spent more than 28 years in government service. He is a former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service and an Air Force veteran. His political commentaries have been widely published online and in print.