Something very, very bad happened over the weekend.
President Obama made Digby sigh.
What did President Obama do that made Digby sigh? Well, that thing about increasing American military involvement in Syria. Digby quotes, and agrees with, a piece by Mark Lynch which she calls “a deeply skeptical and very depressing assessment of the decision to intervene in Syria.”
Digby — like most other sentient beings on the planet, and at least 85 percent of all Americans in the most recent polls — believes that intervening in Syria is a bad decision and will in all likelihood make the situation, already a vast cauldron of human suffering, worse.
So who is to blame for this terrible decision, this stupid decision, this bad decision that will almost certainly extend, expand and prolong the suffering of multitudes of innocent human beings?
Now you and I might think that the person responsible for the decision to send American weapons to the Syrian rebels rests with the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces and the Chief Executive of the U.S. government, positions subsumed within the office of the President of the United States — a post currently held by Barack Obama.
But it turns out that President Barack Obama is not responsible for the decision of the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces and the Chief Executive of the U.S. government to send American arms to the Syrian rebels.
So who is responsible, if Obama is not? You’ll never guess.
Yes, apparently, once again our noble Nobelist has been torn away from his true intentions and, very reluctantly, with heavy heart — indeed, with the kind of tragic grandeur that perhaps only President Daniel Day-Lewis might have known in the grimmest days of the Civil War — been forced, forced against his will, against the very inclination of his soul, to send the American war machine into yet another country.
For who can forget his anguished reluctance to escalate the Afghan War with his Bush-like surge? Or the heart-tormented nights he spent before intervening illegally in Libya? Or the sweat-drops of blood he shed in fervent prayer before escalating the drone attacks on Pakistani villages? Or the spiritual torment he must go through each and every week before, sadly, reluctantly, he orders a new raft of “extrajudicial killings” by his globe-spanning death squads?
And now, once again, despite what we may be sure were weeks of fervent petition to the Lord to let this cup pass from him, the president has been forced to act against his will and make another bad, stupid, murderous decision. As Digby puts it:
Everything I read says that President Obama, unlike many in his cabinet (including his former Secretary of State) has been extremely reluctant to engage but finds himself hemmed in by the circumstances.
You see, he has been “hemmed in by circumstances.” Despite his extreme reluctance to use the American military machine in dubious, sinister and counterproductive operations — and despite his position as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, the most powerful military in the history of the world, and as Chief Executive of the U.S. government, likewise the most powerful state in human history, he has been “hemmed in by circumstances” and forced to make this bad decision.
Yes, he can order the assassination of anyone on earth. Yes, he can read the emails and web trails of anyone on earth. Yes, he can launch a nuclear war tomorrow and destroy the planet. But he cannot resist the “circumstances” that have compelled him to intervene in Syria. Poor man. Poor, powerless, tragic man.
And what are those circumstances? Well, that is not crystal clear in Digby’s lament, but apparently the main circumstance is the fact that a “red line” which Barack Obama himself freely decided would be the trigger for intervention has, apparently, according to assertions by his “intelligence” chiefs — including many of the same people (such as his hand-picked Director of National Intelligence, James “Saddam moved his non-existent WMD to Syria” Clapper) who provided the “slam-dunk” intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
These are the “circumstances” that have “hemmed in” Obama. These are the iron chains which this poor man, who has no power — not even the power to change his own mind about red lines and triggers — is now bound with.
But it’s not just Obama. Sadly, all our presidents are poor, powerless men, hemmed in by similar circumstances. As Digby tells us:
He certainly isn’t the first president to find himself in that situation. America’s military empire has perhaps been the most “exceptional” thing about us in recent decades.
Why, I suppose even poor, powerless George W. Bush found himself in such a hemming situation, forced by his own rhetoric and bullshit “red lines” to invade Iraq. And poor old Big Dawg Bill Clinton found himself forced to press the sanctions on Iraq that killed more than half a million children. And …..
It is all, as Digby says, very depressing. Depressing that America keeps going around the world fomenting war, chaos, bloodshed, instability and ruin, bankrupting its own people in the process while stuffing the pockets of war profiteers. And depressing too that none of our presidents apparently have the power to stop this from happening. They are all “hemmed in by circumstances,” by the American military empire … that same military empire that each one of them fought tooth and nail to get control of.
I hope he resists the pressures that Lynch illustrates above [i.e., sliding into ever-deeper involvement]. But the first step is always the hardest. The next ones will probably be easier which argues for not taking the step in the first place.
I must confess that my first reaction to the news that Obama is intervening militarily in Syria — I’m sorry, that circumstances are intervening militarily in Syria — was not exactly a sigh. But hey, maybe Digby’s right. For really, what else can we do, but sigh and shrug and frown a little frown? He’s “our guy” after all, right? Not perfect, but the best “we” can do for now, right? “We” fought like hell to re-elect him, so when he does something stupid, destructive, repressive or murderous, what else can you do? Turn on him? Leave the progressive “tribe”? God forbid! No, “we” can do so much more from inside the tent, bringing progressive pressure to bear by judicious but respectful criticism (and maybe some on-line petitions or something), tempered with “our” general support. Right? Right?