Paper Tiger

August 27, 2013 - 4:59 AM

I am writing this at shortly after 8 PM on Monday. By the time you read this, we might have dropped a hellfire missile on Bashir al-Assad's head.

Not really, but there are some interesting ironies about the Syrian situation.

Secretary of State John Kerry (who famously -- or infamously -- pretended to throw his Vietnam-era medals over the White House fence in 1971.

When I write "pretended" it is because, according to ABC News, Kerry said during a news program on the Washington, DC NBC affiliate on November 6, 1971: "I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals."

Later, during the Presidential campaign, he claimed ""I threw my ribbons. I didn't have my medals. It is very simple."

Working definition of a difference without a distinction.

When he was running for President in 2007, Sen. Barack Obama boasted that he opposed the war in Iraq during a speech in Iowa, thus:

"I don't talk about my opposition to the war to say 'I told you so.' I wish the war had gone differently. But the reason I talk about it is because I truly believe that the judgment...that each of us showed on the most important foreign policy decision of our lives is the best indicator you have of how each of us will make those decisions going forward." [emphasis mine]

Yeah. Well.

Yesterday, John Kerry, stood at the lectern in the Department of State briefing room laying the groundwork for an attack on Syria generally and maybe its president, Bashar al-Assad. He said:

"Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos [of the chemical weapon attacks]."

The State Department has not issued a listing of the foreign ministers Kerry with whom spoke, but it's a good bet that one of them was not the foreign minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov.

The Associated Press said that Lavrov's position on all this is, "Western nations calling for military action against Syria have no proof that the Syrian government is behind the alleged chemical weapons attack...[they] 'cannot provide evidence' of the chemical weapons attack."

Wait. There's more!

Our old friends at al Jazeera quoted Assad in the Russian newspaper Izvestia as saying, "The United States would face failure if it attacked Syria."

Which reminded me, just a little, of Saddam Hussein - the late Saddam Hussein - saying that if the U.S. attempted to thwart his invasion of Kuwait we would face "the mother of all battles."

George H.W. Bush kicked the Iraqis out of Kuwait, you may remember.

The United Nations sent a team into Syria to look for evidence of chemical weapons, but they were refused entry to the area where the attacks took place long enough to allow the Syrians to clean the place up.

When they did go in they were fired on by snipers and, so, didn't do the whole CSI: Crime Scene Investigation thing.

The UN has been as toothless as Assad has been ruthless.

While more than 100,000 people have died in this civil war, representatives to the UN from around the world have tsk-tsked over a crisply chilled Pinot Grigio and fresh shrimp cocktail served by waiters in white jackets in the wilds of assorted penthouses in Manhattan.

You think I'm being too harsh on the UN? Read this from the BBC about the response to the investigation team being shot at: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would ask the inspection team in Damascus to register "a strong complaint."

Well, if that doesn't do it, I can't think of another approach.

I don't envy either President Obama or Secretary Kerry. This is a really bad situation.

The Administration had proclaimed the use of chemical weapons to be a "red line," which is Obama-speak for "or else."

Assad has used chemical weapons. Obama has to come up with something other than registering a "strong complaint."

Problem is, Americans may be as anti-foreign-adventure as they have been anytime prior to Pearl Harbor.

There is no specific U.S. interest being violated in Syria - other than our being the moral authority of the world, which is no small matter. And, if we (and the UK and - dare we say it - the French) don't punish Assad then the Western Powers will be exposed for what Mao Tse-tung described us as in a 1956 interview:

"Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe the United States is nothing but a paper tiger."

Paper tiger. Now, there's a legacy for you.

On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to Kerry's medals, Obama's Iowa speech, Kerry's remarks, the Russian FM, al Jazerra, and Mao. Also, a Mullfoto of the Embassy of Tajikistan in Washington, DC.