Collision course?

President Obama seems to be trying to wriggle out of his ‘red line’ comment, perhaps realizing that if the Syria attack goes badly awry, then people will use that statement to suggest that it was he who was solely responsible for getting the US into the mess even if Congress authorized him to act, since it was that statement that people are repeatedly using to suggest that US ‘credibility’ is on the line.

Barack Obama, speaking during a stopover in Sweden before the summit, denied his political credibility was at stake but admitted relations with Russia had hit a wall. He insisted he had not set the red lines requiring a military response if the Syrian government deployed chemical weapons.

“The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons was abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war,” he said. “That was not something I just kind of made up, I did not pluck it out of thin air.”

He added: “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.

“Keep in mind, I’m somebody who opposed the war in Iraq, and I’m not interested in repeating mistakes about basing decisions on faulty intelligence,” the US president said at a news conference in Stockholm.

Perhaps it was because he was in Stockholm, the place where he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 in what has to be considered a travesty, that made him realize that he had to try and salvage his tattered image. But his ridiculous efforts at shifting blame for the coming conflict onto the entire world are bound to draw ridicule.

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin seems to be hardening his position that Russia will respond to this violation of international law, though how was kept unspecified.

Putin, in an interview published on Wednesday, said it was too early to talk about what Russia would do if the US attacked Syria but added: “We have our ideas about what we will do and how we will do it in case the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise. We have our plans.”

He then said Russia might restart Syria’s suspended S-300 air defence missile contract. Describing the weapon as “very efficient”, he said: “If we see that steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world.”

The statement could also be a veiled threat to revive a contract for the delivery of the S-300s to Iran, which Russia cancelled a few years ago under strong US and Israeli pressure.

This is crazy. It is Cold War brinkmanship all over again.


  1. doubtthat says

    This habit of Obama’s, to parrot the tough-talk bullshit of the right, is his most annoying characteristic (not worst, just most annoying). He constantly does it with the economy, “If folks at home can cut back, then the government should cut back, blah blah.” He’s doing with the NSA nonsense, now he backs himself into a corner playing international tough guy.

    The thing that bothers me most about the red line comment is that he made the assertion without a plan. If you’re going to tell a nation, “don’t do this, or else,” when said nation does exactly that, you should not then stumble and bumble around trying to come up with an ad hoc plan for attack. Whether good or bad, if he immediately said, “Chemical weapons were used. This was our fear. This was the plan when I made the red line statement…” I might disagree, but at least we’d know he wasn’t just making a blind bluff.

  2. TotallymyName says

    The Nobel Peace Prize is not actually awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, but in Oslo, Norway..
    As far as I know Alfred Nobel, a swede, did not give any reasons for the Peace Prize nor why it should be awarded by the Norwegians.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Have you ever noticed: it’s always “We have to blow things up and kill people because our credibility is on the line.”

    It’s never, “We have to make sure that hungry people are fed and kids are educated, or else we will lose credibility.”

  4. colnago80 says

    I think that’s probably right. The real threat to US interests in the Middle East is Iran. What’s going on in Syria is something of a side show which has turned into a war between Shiite and Sunni Islam, reminiscent of the 30 Years War in Europe at the beginning of the 18th Century.

  5. AsqJames says

    Obama: “The international community’s credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

    Putin: “If we see that steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future,”

    Presumably Putin was speaking in Russian, and it’s not 100% clear who was speaking first, but if it was Obama first and the translation is accurate that sounds a lot like Putin saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”. A point I find it hard to argue against.

  6. says

    Weird how these red lines don’t seem to apply to actions taken by the US government. Chemical weapons bad, torture OH LOOK OVER THERE SOMETHING SHINY!

  7. Dunc says

    Oh, you noticed that too? Yeah, we’ll quite happily ignore children dying in their hundreds of thousands when it could be easily and cheaply solved with food, sanitation, and very basic healthcare, but as soon as an issue presents the opportunity to blow shit up and kill people, then it’s very serious and we must do something now!

    It’s almost like they’re just looking for an excuse.

  8. says

    I have to agree with Obama. If we don’t kill tens, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of foreign people because of something stupid one of our politicians said, what will the world think of us? If we were to decide that human life is more important than national ego, where would it end? No. In this, if only this, you can be certain. The United States is credible. We will act with a stupidity that matches our rhetoric.

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